We’re All Mad Here, You Know?

Lost At Sea: The Jon Ronson Mysteries
Riverhead Hardcover

In Jon Ronson’s latest book, Lost At Sea, he delves into some of the fascinating things that we (as in, the royal “we”) are willing to believe in. Each chapter is a new short-story that tells the tale of a terrifying and hilarious encounter as Ronson goes all over the world investigating murders, credit scams, alien abductees, a religious cult and their compulsive kidney donations, Indigo children, Stanley Kubrick’s hoarding, a family that cheated Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, and the thwarted plans of a mass murder in the North Pole of all places. But around the time you start to think, “All of these people are completely batshit, I can’t believe it!” you begin to realize that this is all of us. And Ronson’s satirical investigative style is charming and often hilarious.

I admit that I picked this book up originally because I was dying to read about Ronson’s encounter, as a proper englishman, with the Insane Clown Posse. Just the visual of Ronson backstage having a real heart to heart with ICP right before they’re set to go on stage was appealing enough in its own right, and amazingly nearly every chapter and story in Lost At Sea was just as fascinating. Ronson has this way of being self-deprecatingly charming and funny while being completely sincere, and his curiosity is overwhelming. I found myself being lead through Ronson’s essays, compiled perfectly, to elicit kind of a crescendo into an “ah-ha!” moment.

After reading about juggalos, reclusive rich people creating life-like robots, new agey hippies that believe their children have special psychic gifts, and what spending a day as James Bond might actually have been like, you happen upon the chapter about “Santa’s Little Helpers”: A group of 13 year olds in the North Pole, the most Christmassy place on Earth, who were plotting a Columbine-style mass murder in their middle school. Obviously shocking and yet he paints this irreverent setting; the mayor insisting that all business owners wear elf costumes for several months out of the year, nobody ever takes down their decorations, and the 6th-graders answer letters to Santa from all the world’s children. Dark and heavy, but completely absurd at the same time, right?

Some of these stories are just so hilarious and awful, I wondered, “Am I going to hell for being so entertained?” Other times I felt deeply touched, horrified or helpless. It was such a good ride. Lost At Sea, an insightful, entertaining, weird little book.

Sara makes the words happen.