- Hardcover: 276 pages
- Publisher: Prometheus (15 Jun. 2011)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 161614419X
- ISBN-13: 978-1616144197
- Product Dimensions: 16 x 2.5 x 23.5 cm
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 790,472 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Cold-Blooded Kindness Hardcover – 15 Jun 2011
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Riveting and disturbing, an investigation into American-heartland pathos in which 'guilt', 'innocence', 'victim', 'perpetrator', come to seem almost hopelessly tangled. Barbara Oakley is to be commended upon looking so hard, and so closely, at the motives, in some, that underlie acts of 'kindness' and 'altruism'--suggesting that things are not always as they appear, and the phrase killed with kindness springs from the absolute bedrock of folk wisdom." --Joyce Carol Oates, Professor of the Arts at Princeton University, is a recipient of the National Book Award for her novel them, and a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters
"Cold-Blooded Kindness is a terrific book. It combines old-fashioned narrative skills with new insights from science and a tough-minded view of good and evil that is neither sentimental nor cynical." --Steven Pinker, Harvard College Professor of Psychology, Harvard University, and author of How the Mind Works and The Blank Slate.
"This true-crime tale is as oxymoronic as the title suggests: An animal-loving mother of four kills her husband execution-style. Oakley studs the book with input from experts on battered women, altruism, and empathy gone awry. Her approach taps another paradox: We can understand genetic influences and remain baffled by any one human's behavior. Read this if you're convinced people are never who they appear to be." --Psychology Today
"Truly a tour de force. Barbara Oakley couples the story-telling gifts of a born novelist with the insights of a sophisticated neuroscientist. Beginning with a sensational crime, Cold-Blooded Kindness gradually pulls back to reveal labyrinthine depths of duplicity conducted on a grand public scale. I alternated between shivering in horror and laughing out loud. This book is a murder mystery, a case study in social pathology, an artist's biography, a courtroom drama, and a scientific detective story all at once. A lot is at stake: human decency; the integrity of the legal system; and the powers of science to illuminate human behavior in its strangest and darkest forms. Cold-Blooded Kindness is a triumphant achievement." --Joseph Carroll, Curators' professor of English, University of Missouri, St. Louis; author of Evolution and Literary Theory and Literary Darwinism: Evolution, Human Nature, and Literature
"Barbara Oakley has written the most ambitious kind of true crime book, one that goes beyond a story well told and takes the lid off the simmering conditions and psychopathology that cook up into a tragic killing. There are haunting warnings for all of us in Cold-Blooded Kindness, as well as a fundamental truth: Homicide is self-will run riot--even if it wears a smiley face." --Lowell Cauffiel, New York Times bestselling author of House of Secrets
About the Author
Barbara A. Oakley, PhD (Rochester, MI), is the acclaimed author of Evil Genes: Why Rome Fell, Hitler Rose, Enron Failed, and My Sister Stole My Mother's Boyfriend. She has been dubbed a female Indiana Jones--her writing combines worldwide adventure with solid research expertise. Among other adventures, she has worked as a Russian translator on Soviet trawlers in the Bering Sea, served as radio operator at the South Pole Station in Antarctica, and risen from Private to Regular Army Captain in the US Army. Currently an associate professor of engineering at Oakland University in Michigan, Oakley is a recent vice president of the world's largest bioengineering society and holds a doctorate in the integrative discipline of systems engineering.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
If you've read Oakley's previous book, Evil Genes: Why Rome Fell, Hitler Rose, Enron Failed, and My Sister Stole My Mother's Boyfriend, you'll know what to expect: engaging narrative interspersed with the latest in cognitive research and neuroscience, with quotes from many of the leading authorities on all the topics involved. So you don't just get a true-crime story, but insights into animal hoarding, brain hemisphere functions, personality disorders, parent/child role reversal, altruism, and more. While there were several portions of Evil Genes I thought were seriously flawed, Oakley has more focus in this volume, and it makes for a more cogent presentation. And I think the study of fake 'victims' has a lot of potential to expand to the macrosocial level (just as she extended psychopathy to that level in EG). We have no shortage of nations 'playing the victim', all the while engaging in deceit, impression management, oppression, and violence of unimaginable depths. The dynamic between Carole and Marty can be seen globally. Just think about the War on Terror, with Martha Stout's excellent book, The Paranoia Switch: How Terror Rewires Our Brains and Reshapes Our Behavior--and How We Can Reclaim Our Courage, in mind.
Unfortunately, as Oakley points out in the final chapter of her book in reference to her own subject matter, this may be just 'too far' for many people to go. Victimhood, like altruism, is sanctified in our minds, and to imagine the depth of evil required for a person or nation to exploit it is a bitter pill to swallow. That's where the very brain mechanisms Oakley discusses come into play, and, like a "stroke patient's left hemisphere deliberately hiding his hand, the better to insist it isn't there", we refuse to acknowledge what is staring us right in the face. In this sense, I think Cold-Blooded Kindness is an important book, because it puts events in our everyday lives, both socially and interpersonally, in perspective. It provides a new way of looking at things that we didn't have before. So, check it out.
I don't know what to think of Carole Alden. Is she a liar? Is she odd? Is she a calculated and manipulative killer? I don't know but hopefully assume that the authorities got it right when they convicted her. This book didn't give me much to go on except some vague theory of pathological altruism. The author was unwilling to label Carole Alden as a pathological altruist, however. So why am I reading a book with the theory and the subject entertwined? I got the feeling in the end that the author was more excited to present a trendy new psych label than to deeply investigate and concisely present her ideas.
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