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.

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.

Unusual search: Can cats sense someone is a sociopath?

This is the first time I’ve ever seen this search.  All I can say, the most extreme female sociopath I’ve ever known said cats and dogs hated her.  Was this just something unique to her or do dogs and cats have some innate sense of fairplay?  Did they recognize her as a rapacious, reptilian-minded predator?  I don’t know.  [More in the comments below.]

Other searches

Pseudologia fantastica in real person: Yep, it’s real alright.  Actually if one is not immediately caught up and swept away by the pseudologue’s “pity play” then they are more obvious than regular sociopaths — their stories are so extreme and fantastical.

How to get a workplace sociopath to leave: Good luck.

How to let go of a sociopath: This will happen when your soul (not your mind) realizes there is no soul in the other person.  If this doesn’t happen, perhaps the other person is not a sociopath or perhaps you are actually fighting a realization that one of your parents is sociopathic ($50 please).

Or in the emotional immediacy of transsociopathica‘s words:

A few months after you have recovered you will wonder what you ever saw in these things. They will rapidly seem cold, ugly, empty, pathetic, distorted and almost deformed to you. That’s because this is what they are, always were, and you are finally perceiving them in their real unmasked state. This ‘broken beast’ is all that’s left and the only memory you’ll have of them going into the future. It’s all they deserve, because it is all they are.  http://transsociopathica.blogspot.com/2009/10/farewell-my-sociopath-hello-real-love.html

Sociopath at parties: Due to few inhibitions and no shame they can be real lives of the party.  Read “The Incredible Charlie Carewe” (http://www.amazon.com/incredible-Charlie-Carewe-Mary-Astor/dp/B00005W69S). Some are also very, very skillful at party crashing. (https://kat.cr/the-incredible-charlie-carewe-mary-astor-mobi-t7972573.html, https://openlibrary.org/books/OL5798604M/The_incredible_Charlie_Carewe).

Sociopath and blackmailing: Goes together like ham and eggs.  They love crimes without consequence.

Pictures of  Thomas Capano: Hmmm.  This is a repeat search.  He’s the only one of my blog’s possible sociopaths (more than possible in his case) whose picture people seem particularly interested in.  I don’t know why.

I was with a sociopath for 8 years…why? For one thing, since no one is ever informed of this possibility as they are growing up or upon reaching romantic age, it often takes years for someone to realize their situation.  Also, as the sociopath often cons relatives of the non-sociopath, individuals in your position are really on their own.  Addressing this is one of the main missions of my blog.

You have a lot of company.  Ann Landers was married for thirty years to the sociopath, in my opinion of course, Jules Lederer (who she described as the best salesman in the world).  They met while she was shopping for a wedding dress for her upcoming marriage to another person.  Just the kind of challenge that might appeal to a “super” sociopath.  Also, as I recall, her sister, Dear Abby, criticized her after the divorce for not understanding her husband.

Are sociopaths giving to neighbors and friends? I have witnessed such behavior, but it was only used to engender goodwill to set up later depredations.  Like a “pity play” (all sociopaths excel at inducing people to feel sorry for them) it brings people to their side emotionally.  Often, it seems, they want a reservoir of protectors before they commit their antisocial depredations (such as date/friend rape, “dress gray” rape, tricking a teen neighbor into prostitution, outright thievery, “murder by suicide” bullying (this is no exaggeration), blackmail, etc.).  They want the accuser to be met with angry disbelief (anger that such a nice person would be accused).  Not only do they wish to protect themselves through “plausible lies,” they want to place their victims in the position of having to claim “implausible truths.”

Can God change a sociopath? The short answer is no.  That would be akin to changing a stone into a block of wood, or lead to gold.  If the question is actually can sociopaths be lead to see the error of their ways and cease being sociopaths, unfortunately the answer is absolutely not.  Sociopaths have their own nature, they are the way they are born to be.  “Socially acceptable psychopaths” (SAPs) who, by definition are capable as passing in normal society, can choose whether or not to follow society’s norms and laws but they can’t feel them.  Justice and empathy are just empty words, even to them.  This searcher might be interested in the post,  More structural brain abnormalities seen in psychopaths.  I think its clear that most sociopaths are born with these brain structures.  Related posts on psychopathy/sociopathy brain structures:  https://pathwhisperer.info/2014/12/09/psychopathy-marker-neurodevelopmental-marker-for-limbic-maldevelopment-in-antisocial-personality-disorder-and-psychopathy/https://pathwhisperer.info/2011/11/29/criminal-minds-will-testing-the-brain-even-before-birth-separate-the-good-seeds-from-the-bad/https://pathwhisperer.info/2015/02/01/psychopaths-brains-dont-grasp-punishment-scans-reveal/https://pathwhisperer.info/2014/02/03/post-redux-what-the-heck-are-these-brain-structures-meaningful-or-not/https://pathwhisperer.info/2015/09/18/test-all-presidential-candidates/.

Drifter & sociopath: The drifters and rolling stones of life are in fact often sociopaths, driven by boredom and lack of emotional bonds.  Boredom is simply one of their prime driving forces.  Thus the backwaters, catch basins and outposts of empires or large nations have a much higher sociopathic percentage — for example, California, Australia and New Zealand.

Will my baby be born a sociopath?: Here’s a heart breaker.  From the little I know, it seems the genetics of sociopathy is very complex.  I’ll try to look into this further.  If this searcher was attracted to a sociopath because one of her parents was sociopathic the odds aren’t good.

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