What connects Deal or No Deal, Stanley Kubrick, and real-life superheroes? To most of us the answer would be ‘not very much’, but to Jon Ronson they’re all sources of fascinating stories that shine a light on some of the weird and wonderful lives that people lead. Collecting together various articles previously published in magazines and newspapers, Lost at Sea offers a look at the world through Ronson’s eyes as he meets people living in and dealing with all sorts of situations from the bizarre to the traumatising.
This is Ronson’s seventh book, and unlike previous titles like Them or The Psychopath Test which were very much themed around a single concept, Lost at Sea is a wider collection that covers much more ground. While the book is split into loose themes such as Justice or Everyday Difficulty, each individual piece stands alone. This does mean the book is less focused than others in his catalogue, but it’s a testament to Ronson’s ability to find and tell fascinating stories that it still works as a whole, and is no less readable for its more ramshackle structure. If there is an overall theme, it’s widening the boundaries of the world, and giving a glimpse at people, places and situations that are a little out of the ordinary, and that we’re unlikely to come across in our day to day lives.
Most of the pieces here are fairly short and sweet, some running to little more than ten pages each, but there’s an awful lot crammed into those few pages. There’s a genuine feel throughout that Ronson is absolutely fascinated by each person he meets, whether he ultimately comes to like/respect/understand them or not, and there’s no shoddy, slapdash journalism here. This is well written, well researched, honest, up-front and true to life. Not everyone comes away looking great, including Ronson himself at times, but there’s never any feeling of agenda. Whatever he’s looking at, he’s looking purely because it’s interesting to do so, and that makes what he’s writing worth reading. We come away from this book with plenty of questions, but at the same time somehow more understanding of the world and certainly more aware of just how strange a place we live in.