Jon Ronson's books are perfect for anyone who may be concerned about their sanity. Trust me, once you read a few pieces by this best-selling journalist (author of "Men Who Stare at Goats," which was made into a movie starring George Clooney), you'll feel like the most well-adjusted person around. Armed with deadpan humor and a broad tolerance for even the most horrifying of world views, Ronson interviews such subjects as the members of the band Insane Clown Posse, the world's supposedly most advanced robot, a UFO expert, a man who's been attempting to make contacts with extra-terrestrial life for years, and community members of an Alaskan town in which schoolkids answer letters to Santa in the guise of elves. He also looks at the darker side of humanity with interviews with Robbie Williams, the pop impressario indicted for child molestation; Major Charles Ingram and his wife Diana, who cheated on the British show "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire"; and neighbors of Robert Hall, a Brit living in the French countryside who murdered his wife and entombed her in a block of concrete. Psychics, cult leaders and gurus are also represented in this collection. Occasionally, Ronson himself is the main subject, as in "The Name's Ronson, Jon Ronson," (in which he impersonates James Bond for a day), but even when he's not, his irrelevance often gets him in trouble with those he interviews and their followers. In one, an irate psychic lambasts him, calling him a "little worm." Other subjects are more circumspect in their attempts to obscure the real story, such as the employees of the Disney cruise ship, from which an employee went missing and has never been found.
In several pieces, Ronson employs rather original ways of handling the subject. In "Who Killed Richard Cullen," which looks at a man who committed suicide after running up credit card debt, he adopts multiple personas to see which gets the most credit card junk mail solicitations. In "Amber Waves of Green," he includes himself in examining the lifestyles of people in "six degrees of economic separation." Once content with his own lot, he becomes envious when interviewing a woman several rungs above him. "A very small amount of money," the woman explains when asked how much she pays her business manager. "A hundred thousand dollars a year....The trick is not to be too rich."
Real heroes emerge, as well, such as the two men who donate a kidney to strangers in "Blood Sacrifice." Ronson's usual skepticism is even overcome a few times, in his travels, too. Some of the subjects will amuse you, others baffle you, while others will likely make your skin crawl. While some ramble on and display a lack of empathy, others are more tuned in and even have a sense of humor. Fans of Ronson's books will definitely enjoy "Lost at Sea."