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lonesomepoint

lonesomepoint

Ungodly: The Passions, Torments, and Murder of Atheist Madalyn Murray O'Hair (Berkley True Crime) - Ted Dracos What the author set out to prove in this book proved difficult to identify, for reasons that may become clear. But the identifiable thesis seems to be that O'Hair—the plaintiff in the lawsuit that ultimately led to the U.S. Supreme Court striking down school prayer in 1963--was a certifiable sociopath who, while possessing genuine convictions against religion, pursued her lawsuit (and many subsequent commitments) based on personal spite. The beginning of this lifetime of spiteful attitudes and behaviors began with a vendetta, displayed in the presence of family members, against God.

The glimpses of Madalyn O'Hair's behavior are fairly effective in establishing her lifelong pattern of antisocial behavior and in establishing her atheist career as being probably an extended campaign of revenge against God. However, if the examples of her behavior quickly begin to resemble either the tawdry shenanigans of a corrupt family or (to a lesser extent) the manipulative behavior of a quasi-political, quasi-religious figure (several times, I thought her career vaguely resembled that of of L. Ron Hubbard), it is because of something that that the reader concludes by the end of the book: that author Dracos has no real thesis.
More accurately, he does introduce the thesis of O'Hair's being a textbook sociopath, but offers only a scattershot variety of behavioral examples, with no explicit tie-ins to that thesis. That probably owes to two observations that I can objectively make about this book. One is that, because of the author's style and because of the inevitable focus on Madalyn's and her family's murders, ends up being a true-crime book posing as a literate biography. The second is that, objectively, the book is very poorly written. The problem is not so much bad grammar or sloppy editing is that the author, an investigative journalist, is excessively informal and sardonic in style. He regularly insults not only O'Hair and her family, but other figures in the book as well; he also uses inappropriate paraphrases of what should be direct quotations—inappropriate because, in keeping with his style, he gratuitously inserts profane and obscene language into the paraphrases.
This obviously is a pop biography, not an academic one.