My Son, the Sociopath

A few years ago, before my son was born, I spent a weekend in the Hamptons at the country house of a moderately hip American investment banker. There were about 20 of us to dinner that evening, with all the usual cosmopolitan strains amply represented. Boring and predictable as the whole business was, by about two o'clock in the morning wine and cognac were doing to the conversation what Harvard and Wall Street can never do on their own, and I was deep in a meaningful discussion with a German. By way of social definition, I should mention that the man was in his 40's, a member of the Knickerbocker in New York, and had the heiress to a reasonably important industrial fortune for a wife.

I tested the water by saying something mildly original about Hitler, whereupon your usual guest at a Hamptons dinner party would have moved at least one chair away. Nothing. The German even nodded assent. Then I said something inflammatory about the unification of the Fatherland being a Soviet ploy. Again, nothing. I was almost beginning to think the man had a brain. We spoke about life in London, and then he asked me if I was planning to have children. Just one, I said. If it is a boy, would I send him to school in England? I replied that, boy or girl, I had no intention of sending my child to school. He asked why.

I began answering him. He took off his tie. I went on with my answer. He took off his jacket and put it over the back...

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