A personal and clinical deconstruction of the narcissistic personality.
Is the narcissist a real personality disorder or merely a factor of our fascination with it? In this slender but densely researched book, essayist Dombek offers plenty of examples of what has become a buzzword for the self-absorbed millennial, a kind of creepily charismatic, puffed-up, nonempathetic, and essentially cold type that often shows up in artists, “the bad boyfriend,” and violent criminals, among others. Apparently, narcissists are increasing in number, and yet they are not new to the scene: flashback to the 1970s “me” generation. From her obsessive internet surfing on the subject, Dombek examines the Narcissistic Personality Disorder, a real entry in the updated Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders that has attracted the interest of numerous writers and bloggers over the years, all documented and delineated here as exhibiting what might be regarded as an “epidemic.” Indeed, in her chapter on the “bad boyfriend,” the author profiles the “evil fake” type in intimate terms. In her portraits of Allison, the subject of MTV’s reality show My Super Sweet 16, and of Anders Breivik, the Norwegian murderer of 77 people, Dombek wonders whether a person really can lack empathy. However, in the end, the author casts doubts on the reliability of these self-perpetuating clinical studies and questions whether in Ovid’s narrative Narcissus was the cold, vain beloved or a portrait of the victim, chastised by Nemesis because the lovely boy hunter has spurned one of the love-sick boys who chases him. Cleverly, Dombek turns the narrative around, making the tragedy of Narcissus not his problem but ours, for being so besotted by him that we are appalled by his inability to return our love.
A savvy, sharp study that only occasionally loses readers in the psychological brambles.