Lost at Sea by Jon Ronson

Lost at Sea by Jon Ronson Purchase:

    Ronson has an extraordinary ability to sympathetically engage with his subjects while retaining his sense of gentle skepticism.

    Jon Ronson is fascinated by madness, extraordinary behaviour and the human mind. He has spent his life investigating crazy events, following fascinating people and unearthing unusual stories. Collected here from various sources (including the Guardian and GQ America) are the best of his adventures.

    Always intrigued by our ability to believe the unbelievable, Jon meets the man preparing to welcome the aliens to earth, the woman trying to build a fully-conscious robotic replica of the love of her life and the Deal or No Deal contestants with a fool proof system to beat the Banker.

    Jon realizes that it’s possible for our madness to be a force for good when he meets America’s real-life superheroes or a force for evil when he meets the Reverend ‘Death’ George Exoo, who has dubiously assisted in more than a hundred mercy killings.

    He goes to a UFO convention in the Nevada desert with Robbie Williams, asks Insane Clown Posse (who are possibly America’s nastiest rappers) whether it’s true they’ve actually been evangelical Christians all along and rummages through the extensive archives of Stanley Kubrick.

    Frequently hilarious, sometimes disturbing, always entertaining, these compelling encounters with people on the edge of madness will have you wondering just what we’re capable of.

    Review by Glamazon:

    John Ronson
    John Ronson

    Ronson’s journalistic style and various narrative journeys remind me of the weekly podcast episodes of This American Life, with Ira Glass. I particularly related to the stories of the credit/bank clusterfluck of 2008 – and Ronson was writing way before this crisis started to peak – and the missing cruise ship staff member.

    Ronson has a signature method of starting small, with an individual or seemingly low impact situation, and then developing the larger picture with expanded implications.

His narrative voice is good, but takes some getting used to. Initially he sounds slightly hoarse, with little projection at a very low volume, but once I became more familiar with his auditory style, it was all good.

    Compilations of stories and episodic collections used to be exactly what I would avoid purchasing on audible, but now I find myself enjoying the varied range of perspectives and story lines afforded by edited groupings of shorter pieces. I think this is partly due to looking at why I listen – I’m not always seeking a 9-to-21-hour plot line and buildup to a specific result; nor is “how it all ends” my predominant purpose in listening to books rather than reading the print versions.

    I just like the explorations of emotional landscape and inner dialogue and it’s not that relevant for me to have a specific factual ending. Another aspect of listening for me is that I can read books while doing other things – working, walking, running, driving, so listening to one full-length story is not a huge factor.

    This is a superb collection and well-suited to the investigative journalist’s voice of Jon Ronson.

    Review by Diane:

    Jon Ronson is a master of the absurd which both surrounds AND is within us. Whether it is indigo children, alien abductees, Christian pentecostalism, SETI, Insane Clown Possee or Stanley Kubrick, Ronson probes into all that is weird and wonderful.

Perhaps one of the best things about Ronson (and his delightfully appropriate narrative style) is that he eschews the superior tone characteristic of most skeptics in favor of a wryly self-deprecating humor which acknowledges his own (and by implication, our) attraction to these phenomena.

    Not all of it is light-hearted; there is a darker side to some of his subjects, such as the would-be school shooters in North Pole, Alaska. Throughout, Ronson has an extraordinary ability to sympathetically engage with his subjects while retaining his sense of gentle skepticism.

    His aim is not to ridicule but to understand and to be amazed and sometimes to be saddened–and he invites us to do the same.

 Ronson does not have an agenda. Don’t be surprised if your own particular ox is gored; but in Ronson’s hands the experience is humbling rather than enraging.

    To paraphrase Pogo, he reminds us that “we have met the crazies…and they are us.”