Star Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
“A young man called Bill stands in the shadows behind a curtain at a converted paintworks factory in Bristol, now a TV studio.”
This book is like the ‘Greatest Hits’ album by your favourite band. You pick the album up, look at the tracklist and realise that you’ve heard most of the songs, but you buy it anyway because there are some on there you’ve never listened to. I’ve read most of Jon Ronson’s books, and I thought this one would be full of articles I’d never read. I was mistaken. For anyone who has left this book until late in the Jon Ronson Reading Experience, I will list the articles that appear in this book that also appear in his other books:
- A Message from God, pp. 45-65
- Citizen Kubrick, pp. 126-149
- Phoning a friend, pp. 177-197
- Blood Sacrifice, pp. 273-295
- The Fall of a Pop Impresario, pp. 328-361
The one’s I hadn’t already read I enjoyed reading more! The first one was particularly entertaining and quite surreal for me to read. It is about the game show Deal or No Deal, which is a show my mum and I used to watch every day. The opening line made me think: ‘Bristol? TV Studio? Isn’t that where they film Deal or No Deal?’ and of course, I was right.
This is the last book I read in my Jon Ronson-read-a-thon but I think it would have been better if I’d have read it earlier on, or at least before Out of the Ordinary purely to get rid of the disruption of chapters I’ve already read. I also noticed that in this book, the repeated chapters are presented in full, whereas in Out of the Ordinary the stories are sometimes shortened, or sentences or paragraphs are missed out. For that reason, read Lost at Sea first, then you’ll get away with skipping the repeated stories knowing you missed nothing!
When reading his writing, I imagine Jon Ronson to be unlike the typical idea of journalists, are more a geeky guy with a notepad asking lots of curious questions. These stories range from being odd, surreal, serious, shocking, and funny. They’ll all make you think. You’ll think about the things you don’t know, you’ll think about the things you do know – but your perspective might change, in a good way. You’ll be reading and wonder whether you should be finding this out. I’m often reading Jon’s work and thinking, ‘How am I reading this?’ because his stories sometimes seem so far away from you’d expect a journalist to write that it takes you by surprise that you’re reading it.
In my reviews, I don’t like to give anything away, or make an argument about what was good and why, or what was bad and why. I want to leave that up to you. But if you want some Ronson, then this will be a good place to begin.