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Wednesday, November 21, 2012
Lost at Sea is collection of articles that sees Ronson at his weird and wonderful best
When Highgate’s Jon Ronson isn’t busy trying to pin down what is means to be a psychopath, or having one of his books turned into a movie by George Clooney, he is a day to day journalist, writing features for the Guardian.
Lost at Sea is a curated collection of his work there. It spans a ten-year stretch of collecting weird stories from the fringes of the human existence- somewhere where he believes, as he writes in his introduction, the best stories are to be found.
As such we join Ronson as he investigates various phenomena. His subjects include Indigo children, believed to have special psychic powers by their parents, The religious dogma of the Alpha Course, self-styled Superheroes in Philadelphia and the pressure cooker superstition of being a contestant on Deal or No Deal (where it seems Noel Edmonds has more power than we might assume). It’s not all the weird and wonderful though: the title of the book is taken from a story about a ship-worker on a Disney cruise line mysteriously disappearing without a trace and her parent’s desperate search for answers. There’s also a heartbreaking re-visit to the tragedy of Christopher Foster, who shot his wife and daughter in their Shropshire home, before killing himself and the suicide of a man deeply in debt, which prompts Ronson to investigate the tactics of credit agencies, to disturbing effect.
When Ronson published The Psychopath Test, reviewers accused him of being a bit picaresque and veering from his initial, focussed brief. Here we find him at his best- in neatly formed potted stories of the strange. It’s a formula that does justice to the comedy elements in his writing and his investigative skill.
Of course, it is obvious that this is going to be a solid book- it’s a collection of stories that have already been published and enjoyed once before. Put together in a volume these works also serve to highlight another intriguing character- Ronson himself becomes a subject for the reader to ponder. We find out his fears, his compulsions, his heroes and even his salary, building up a cumulative picture of him as he narrates the world he is investigating.
Lost at Sea, The Jon Ronson Mysteries by Jon Ronson is published by Picador £14.99