Book Review: Lost at Sea

‘A strange thing happens when you interview a robot…’

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Jon Ronson was part of the new wave of investigative journalism that followed the same weird and wonderful path of Hunter S. Thompson without ever making themselves part of the story. As I write this I have just returned from a trip to Amsterdam in which I viewed a live sex show. It was a bizarre and curious experience but one that I found surprisingly exhilarating. Not in an erotic way but more a kind of bafflement and wonder as I noticed the stoic determination of the two people involved in the act. They made the act of making love into the most clinical and professional display of human contact that one could imagine. As I stood in the booth with my wife, desperately trying not to make eye contact with the beast with two backs, a line from Peep Show occurred to me. Mark Corrigan finds himself in similar circumstances and murmurs “I’m Louis Theroux. I’m Louis Theroux with his wry smile at the orgy”. You could replace the name Louis Theroux with Jon Ronson and the analogy would still work…

The point of this self indulgently long introduction is that Jon Ronson has witnessed and reported on things that many of us can only dream about. Only in extreme moments, such as a live sex show in Amsterdam, are we able to glimpse Ronson’s world and live amongst the freaks and the outcasts that make up much of the Welsh journalists work.

Lost at Sea is an anthology of some of Ronson’s best journalistic work. Whether he is tackling assisted suicide, junk mail or paedophilia, Ronson brings the same level of humour, self deprecation and compelling prose in order to keep the pages turning and the laughs regular. I have now read four of his books and I can comfortably say I have enjoyed them as much as anything else I have read in the last five years. Ronson’s uniquely inquisitive style and eye for the bizarre ensure that even the most banal subjects become interesting and otherworldly.

Lost at Sea: The Jon Ronson Mysteries is his seventh book and I would urge anyone who isn’t already a convert to go out and read as many of them as you can. There simply isn’t a better investigative journalist working in publishing today.