From Neglected Books: Mary Astor, Author – The Incredible Charlie Carewe

The following is a quote from the Neglected Books (http://neglectedbooks.com/?p=241) regarding The Incredible Charlie Carewe:

“[. . . . ]  A year later, Doubleday released her first novel, The Incredible Charlie Carewe.

Cover of Dell paperback reissue of 'The Incredible Charlie Carewe'Although it suffers some of the typical construction problems of a first novel, The Incredible Charlie Carewe is a remarkable work that demonstrates “qualities of depth and reality” equal to those Anderson noted in Astor’s acting. Charlie Carewe is the handsome, charming, charismatic son of a wealthy East Coast Establishment family with impeccable bloodlines. On the surface, it seems as if the sky is the limit–no doors are closed to Charlie Carewe.

Unfortunately, something is a bit, well, odd, about Charlie. At first, there is just a sense that his behavior is a bit hard to explain, but given his class and status, his parents, his sister, the help–everyone writes it off to quirks in his character. But then his sister comes across Charlie in the rocks along the shore of their country estate–bashing a playmate’s head into the rocks:

There was absolutely no savagery in the action, no passion or hatred, no viciousness, He looked up briefly as he saw Virginia and Jeff and called out a smiling “Hi!” and then went back to his task. Firmly, purposefully, as though he were occupied in cracking a coconut. In the seconds before movement came back to the paralyzed observers another wave whispered up to the two boys and receded with pink in its foam.

Charlie’s victim is rushed off to the hospital with permanent brain damage and the Carewe’s social finesse is put to the test as they graciously usher out their guests as if nothing more than an unfortunate accident had taken place. The next morning, as he tucks into his breakfast, he asks chattily, “What’s the news on Roger? Did he die?”

The Carewes can recognize that they have something of a ticking time bomb on their hands, but their upbringing and lack of psychological awareness (the incident above takes place in the early 1920s) leaves them helpless when it comes to dealing with it. They shuttle Charlie through a series of elite prep schools, smoothing over matters when he’s quietly asked to leave due to thefts, attacks on other students, or other indiscretions. For a long time, the only person who seems remotely able to accept that Charlie’s actions are more than a little abnormal is his sister Virginia, and even she is at a loss to explain it:

As usual, she thought, she was making a fuss, putting too much importance on Charlie’s behavior. She should be used to it now. Wearily she thought, at least there was one consistency; in any given situation, Charlie could be counted on to do the wrong thing, the inappropriate thing. Nobody, but nobody, could be more charming when he wanted to be. He had, it seemed, a full command of the social graces, and in any gathering, especially of people who were strangers to him, could attract attention with no effort. People would gravitate toward him, toward the sound of his pleasant voice, his contagious laugh; but always he seemed to want to destroy it….

Schools could expel him, friends were quickly made and quickly lost, his contact with any kind of social life was brief, and none of it seemed to matter to him. Nor did it matter that the cumulative effect was destroying a family.

Astor displays a clinical objectivity in leading us through every step along the way as Charlie spreads havoc into the lives of almost everyone he meets. In each situation, the pattern is the same: glittering, showy success followed by abrupt failure due to some or other act of willful brutality. His forms a company, makes a great splash, achieves fame as a tycoon and philanthropist, and within a couple of years is being escorted out by his nearly bankrupted partners. He makes a show of joining the Navy after Pearl Harbor, then weasels his way out by pretending to be a bed-wetter. He drives his wife to divorce and alcoholism, borrows and loses money from friends, seduces wives and ruins friendships.

Not even the incredibly strong defenses of family fortune and status, though, can withstand the destructive force of Charlie’s will, however, and only an unlucky trip on a staircase keeps Charlie from standing alone in a wasteland of his own fallout. What Charlie is, we can now see in a glance with the benefit of much greater awareness, is, of course, a psychopath. The psychiatrist Hervey Cleckley recognized this, citing Astor’s book in the 1964 edition of his classic work on psychopathology, The Mask of Sanity:

In many respects the most realistic and successful of all portrayals of the psychopath is that presented by Mary Astor in The Incredible Charlie Carewe. The rendition is so effective that even those unfamiliar with the psychopath in actual experience are likely to sense the reality of what is disclosed. The subject is superbly dealt with, and the book constitutes a faithful and arresting study of a puzzling and infinitely complex subject. Charlie Carewe emerges as an exquisite example of the psychopath – the best, I believe, to be found in any work of fiction.

The Incredible Charlie Carewe should be read not only by every psychiatrist but also by every physician. It will hold the attention of all intelligent readers, and I believe it will be of great value in helping the families of psychopaths to gain insight into the nature of the tragic problem with which they are dealing, usually in blindness and confusion.

By this point, anyone reading this review who’s been in a bookstore in the last decade can’t help but think of Bret Easton Ellis’ American Psycho. If asked to sum up the book in a single catchphrase, I would have to say, “Imagine American Psycho written by Louis Auchincloss (or Edith Wharton).” Where Ellis writes to shock, Astor writes to show how people of refinement and elaborate rules of conduct respond when faced with pure irrational violence.

The Incredible Charlie Carewe is a remarkable novel not just in the detail and accuracy of its portrayal of a psychopath but in the “depth and reality” of its portrayal of the society in which this particular psychopath operates. Astor is very much in the territory of Wharton and Auchincloss, and she’s clearly deeply familiar with it. This is a novel that has more than a few parallels with the story of the 20th century as a whole, which is one reason it’s a genuine shame that it vanished after a single Dell paperback release in 1963.”

(http://neglectedbooks.com/?p=241)

Other mentions of Astor’s Charlie Carewehttps://pathwhisperer.info/?s=carewe&submit=Search

From the ‘[S]nake-hearted’ era . . . post:

Sadly this was written in the 1950sI’m sure the authors, William March (the novel) and Maxwell Anderson (the play), thought knowledge of psychopathy would spread quickly in the modern age.  As did Hervey Cleckley, Mask of Sanity, and Mary Astor, The Incredible Charlie Carewe, (https://kat.cr/the-incredible-charlie-carewe-mary-astor-mobi-t7972573.html, https://openlibrary.org/books/OL5798604M/The_incredible_Charlie_Carewe), no doubt.  I don’t know what went wrong.  (https://pathwhisperer.info/2014/11/08/this-snake-hearted-era-reginald-taskers-monologue-from-the-bad-seed/)

Why knowledge of psychopathy has not spread throughout society is worthy of an extended discussion.

Post Redux: A more nuanced description of the nonhuman human

From below, on psychopaths:

Herve Cleckley:  “we are dealing … not with a complete man at all but with … a subtly constructed reflex machine which can mimic the human personality perfectly”

Otto Kernberg:  “an enraged empty self—the hungry wolf out to kill, eat and survive.”

An earlier post:

Per Herve Cleckley, per Joe Mcginniss:

Recall here the words of Herve Cleckley, which I encountered for the first time in the fall of 1980: “Only very slowly and by a complex estimation or judgment based on multitudinous small impressions does the conviction come upon us [in regard to the psychopath] that, despite these intact rational processes, these normal emotional affirmations and their consistent application in all directions, we are dealing … not with a complete man at all but with something that suggests a subtly constructed reflex machine which can mimic the human personality perfectly.” [Mask of Sanity, p. 369]

It took me a long time to accept that MacDonald could be the charming and apparently caring man I’d come to know (or thought I did) during the summer of 1979, and, at the same time be what the psychiatrist Otto Kernberg has described as “an enraged empty self—the hungry wolf out to kill, eat and survive.”

http://www.joemcginniss.net/the-1989-epilogue

Further:  https://pathwhisperer.info/2011/06/01/this-nonsense-has-got-to-stop-you-cannot-betray-a-nonhuman-human-who-is-trying-to-play-the-interviewer-mcginniss-malcolm-bazelon/, https://pathwhisperer.info/2015/07/19/search-jeffrey-macdonald-many-surgeons-are-psychopaths/

“Man guilty of pushing wife off Colorado cliff to her death” — Harold Henthorn

“Henthorn told investigators that his wife paused to take a photo of the view and fell face-first over the ledge. His attorney, Craig Truman, said prosecutors failed to prove he killed her.

Prosecutors argued during a two-week trial that Henthorn carefully staged Toni Henthorn’s death to look like an accident because he stood to benefit from her $4.7 million in life insurance policies, which she didn’t know existed. They seized on Henthorn’s inconsistent accounts of the fatal fall and said the evidence did not match his shifting stories.”  http://news.yahoo.com/man-guilty-pushing-wife-off-colorado-cliff-her-210941943.html

The same articles also states his first wife had died when their car fell off the jack while changing a flat.  Toni Henthorn, who died here, earlier had a 20 foot beam fall on her head while they were working on their mountain cabin.

henthorn.harold.henthorn.toni.henthorn.48.hours


henthorn court2 henthorn court1 henthornyoung

Note the identical expression he wears in the top photos — his chosen ‘mask of sanity’ (from Cleckley’s Mask of Sanity).

My greatest psychopathy teacher

image

She gave me psychopathy’s family jewels.  That psychopaths had self knowledge and a group identity.  Even more importantly, that they backed each other up versus the empath world.  And finally, that their self control is actually very difficult, appearing normal is an effort.

I was called into Lehman HR by this SVP and a manager (this manager was a male lover I believe of the blackmailing psychopathic Don Juan/Dress Grey rapist whom they were seeking to protect).  They stated that my assignment at the firm was being canceled due to my handing out to friends 8-10 cut and paste sheets from Cleckley’s Mask of Sanity and Hare’s Without Conscience.  She kept saying they were sexually inappropriate. ‘But I deleted all sexual behaviors and crimes, that’s why they are cut and pastes, not straight copies,’ I said.  She just repeated the same thing again.  Her superiors wouldn’t look over her shoulder, that’s the corporate chain of command. The truth didn’t matter and there is no appeal or promise of fair play or due process in corporations.  Then when I said, against her protestations that she didn’t need to know, that I was giving them out due to the presence of a psychopathic co-worker (mentioned above), she started screaming, “WE HAVE 150,000 EMPLOYEES, OF COURSE LEHMAN HAS PSYCHOPATHIC EMPLOYEES!!”  Then she immediately and visibly calmed herself down and regained her self composure.

After leaving friends told me of rumors following my exit.  It was practically a novella. Made up out of whole cloth, not even based/exaggerated on/from something real. The only truthful elements were getting my name and a few other co-workers’ names right.  These were co-workers whom I had never interacted with off-premises.  But the novella had all kinds of goings on and involvement of outside players.

She denied any knowledge of the source of these rumors.  But I imagine the source was the Lehman HR department, from my experience with psychopathic HR departments in various Wall St. firms.  Destroying exited co-workers’ reputations is something they all do all the time, this was just more extreme.  At HR conventions, they must sit around bragging about their lies, comparing notes and refining strategies, just as psychopaths and con artists do.

I couldn’t find a lawyer who thought we could trace down the vaguely sourced campaign of lies or win an appreciable amount of money.  I should have filed a John Doe case pro se, at least as a record if I couldn’t build a case.  I settled for sending a truthful accounting to my personal friends and all the co-workers listed in the company address book.

The novella was incredibly detailed.  Perhaps that’s a standard psychopathic character assassination campaign strategy. Normal people probably just can’t imagine that such a detailed account could be a lie.  Of course, this is because they couldn’t imagine doing it themselves.  That’s part of the naive prey response syndrome, people still try to understand psychopaths from their own viewpoint, not understanding that they need to step out of their own world to understand psychopaths’ motives and to recognize them.  Finally, most of us are not only naive prey to psychopaths, but naive prey to evil.

This ‘snake-hearted’ era — Reginald Tasker’s monologue from The Bad Seed

. . . yet sometimes I wonder whether these malignant brutes may not be the mutation that survives on this planet in this age.  This age of technology and murder-for-empire.  Maybe the softies will have to go, and the snake-hearted will inherit the Earth.  Now, I’m betting on the democracies.  But we’re living in an age of murder.  In all history, there have never been so many people murdered as in our century.  Add up all the murders from the beginning of history to 1900, and then add the murders after 1900, and our century wins.  All alone . . . http://www.theatreink.net/shows/2013/bad%20seed/bspacket.pdf

Sadly this was written in the 1950sI’m sure the authors, William March (the novel) and Maxwell Anderson (the play), thought knowledge of psychopathy would spread quickly in the modern age.  As did Hervey Cleckley, Mask of Sanity, and Mary Astor, The Incredible Charlie Carewe, Mary Astor’s “The Incredible Charlie Carewe” (https://kat.cr/the-incredible-charlie-carewe-mary-astor-mobi-t7972573.html, https://openlibrary.org/books/OL5798604M/The_incredible_Charlie_Carewe), no doubt.  I don’t know what went wrong.

A review of The Bad Seed.

A more nuanced description of the nonhuman human

Per Herve Cleckley, per Joe Mcginniss:

Recall here the words of Herve Cleckley, which I encountered for the first time in the fall of 1980: “Only very slowly and by a complex estimation or judgment based on multitudinous small impressions does the conviction come upon us [in regard to the psychopath] that, despite these intact rational processes, these normal emotional affirmations and their consistent application in all directions, we are dealing … not with a complete man at all but with something that suggests a subtly constructed reflex machine which can mimic the human personality perfectly.” [Mask of Sanity, p. 369]

It took me a long time to accept that MacDonald could be the charming and apparently caring man I’d come to know (or thought I did) during the summer of 1979, and, at the same time be what the psychiatrist Otto Kernberg has described as “an enraged empty self—the hungry wolf out to kill, eat and survive.”

http://www.joemcginniss.net/the-1989-epilogue

Further:  https://pathwhisperer.info/2011/06/01/this-nonsense-has-got-to-stop-you-cannot-betray-a-nonhuman-human-who-is-trying-to-play-the-interviewer-mcginniss-malcolm-bazelon/, https://pathwhisperer.info/2015/07/19/search-jeffrey-macdonald-many-surgeons-are-psychopaths/

“The psychopathic personality and human evolution” and why can’t women recognize psychopaths

“Dr. Robert Hare, who did seminal work in identifying psychopaths, refers to them as intraspecies predators.” This prompted questions from a Lovefraud reader who asked,

  • If psychopaths are indeed natural predators (by implication, their design is part of nature’s plan to maintain some balance) then would we ever be able to weed them out of society?
  • Do they have a purpose in the natural order of things?

In this article, I’m going to address the second question. Then, next week, I’ll suggest an answer to the first question.

I don’t know about a purpose, but there are researchers who believe psychopaths are around us today because they survived the natural selection process of human evolution.

These researchers call psychopathy “a nonpathological, reproductively viable, alternate life history strategy.” This theory is outlined in Coercive and Precocious Sexuality as a Fundamental Aspect of Psychopathy, a paper published in 2007 by Grant T. Harris, PhD; Marnie E. Rice, PhD; N. Zoe Hilton, PhD; Martin L. Lalumiere, PhD; and Vernon L. Quinsey, PhD.”

http://www.lovefraud.com/blog/2010/01/18/the-psychopathic-personality-and-human-evolution/

This article was written by Donna Anderson at  Lovefraud Blog.  The comment I posted is below.

I think it’s worth looking at other species. Another phrase with the same meaning as ‘intraspecies predator’ is biological ‘cheater strategist’.

Some spadefoot toad tadpoles become cannibals while the rest eat the normal algae (http://www.centre.edu/web/news…..storz.html). If there is enough food and the water doesn’t dry up (which is the norm) the normals keep their numbers up and things are more or less in balance. If the ponds dry too quickly then the faster growing cannibals are much more likely to survive to adulthood and reproduce. If the proportion tips in favor of the cannibals they eventually have to turn on themselves and the population crashes. In the rebuild, the normals again come to the fore. Rinse. Repeat.

Spadefoot normal and cannibal tadpoles

Imo, the achilles tendon of psychopaths is parenting. Being in a state of arrested development themselves and pathologically ego-driven, they are incapable of nurturing healthy children.

On a side note, there is also a question of the evolutionary relationship between normals and psychopaths. Specifically there seems to be a biological prohibition that keeps normal human females from recognizing psychopaths. It’s a defect that might as well be invisible to them (in the majority, imo). Why would this be?

I used to think that psychopaths simply had the “evolutionary jump” on normal women, in the same way that introduced predators have on island animals that have never experienced predation. Forgive this example, but the most well known instance of this is probably the flightless pigeon, the dodo, that sailors could just walk over to and hit on the head. In this scenario human females would simply not have evolved a response quickly enough.

However what does evolution “want?” Evolution simply passes on genetic traits that produce greater number of offspring that survive to maturity and reproduce themselves. So evolution “wouldn’t care” (“want” and “wouldn’t care” are simply shorthand ways of speaking) if the father was a normal or a psychopath. If a psychopathic child grew up and murdered their mother, if it was past the mother’s childbearing years, then this would be of “no concern” to evolution. In evolutionary terms, the passing on of one’s genes, that mother would still be an evolutionary “winner.”

In otherwords I’m now inclined to believe that normal women have an evolved blindness to male psychopathy. When I first read Cleckley’s Mask of Sanity I found it very hard to believe the stories of normal female/psychopathic male interactions. However the sheer number wore me down and then I started seeing examples in real life (actually I had often seen real examples but now I could recognize them for what they were).

So where does this leave us? I dunno . . . .

I’m bringing in the two comments below to expand the main idea:

durr

A leeetle angry at the ladies, eh?

pathwhisperer

That’s not the way I look at it. Have you ever read “Mask of Sanity” or witnessed/experienced a female devotee’s devotion to a male psychopath? “Devotee” is a description I proudly claim originator of, in this context. (Obviously there are male devotees also, but I believe they’re relatively rarer and qualitatively different.) There comes a point where there is nothing a female devotee can’t explain away, nothing about the beloved psychopath that the devotee can’t translate into acceptableness. Challenger: “You don’t know his last name.” “You don’t know his first name.” “You don’t know where he lives.” “You don’t have his phone number.” “Did you know he spent time in prison and/or a mental hospital?” “He derides you in public, saying he’s only playing you.” Devotee: “Oh yes, he explained that all to me. And the last, why that’s just locker-room tough talk.” Challenger: “OK, maybe I was wrong, please share and enlighten me.” Devotee: “Oh no, he requested my confidentiality.” Challenger: “Ahhhhhhh! . . . But, . . he throws passes at all of your friends!” Devotee: “That mad impetuous boy, he doesn’t know what he wants. I’m the one he needs, the only one who understands him!” Challenger (the long defeated challenger): “He has no more feelings for you than an alien reptilian shapeshifter illusionist!” Devotee: “Oh pshaw, you don’t think a mother knows her little defiant two year old!!!” Not those words exactly of course, but the impluse, the intensity, the root cause is identical. The “hook” of the male sociopath is triggering aspects of the mothering instinct.

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