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I live in Bedford, England. Having retired from teaching; I am now a research student at the University of Bedfordshire researching into Threshold Concepts in the context of A-level Physics. I love reading! I enjoy in particular fiction (mostly great and classic fiction although I also enjoy whodunnits), biography, history and smart thinking. I have also recently become a keen playgoer to London Fringe Theatre. I enjoy mostly classics and I read the playscripts and add those to the blog. I am a member of Bedford Writers' Circle. See their website here: http://bedford-writers.co.uk/ Follow me on twitter: @daja57

Thursday, 13 June 2013

"Lost at sea" by Jon Ronson

This is another selection of Jon Ronson's articles about weird people. Ronson talks to robots, investigates attempted high-school shootings in an Alaskan town obsessed with Christmas, goes to a UFO convention with Robbie Williams, investigates mysterious deaths and suicides (there is a shocking piece about people who 'fall overboard' from cruise liners) and Jonathan King's conviction for sex crimes.

The brilliance of Ronson is the way he writes about extraordinary people and events in humdrum and banal terms. When he is with a group of Real Life Super Heroes confronting drug dealers he uses very short sentences to describe an incredibly exciting moment. He points out that he is wearing only a cardigan. After the event he tells the vigilantes that he is going to bed. The juxtaposition of the special with the everyday makes Ronson's writing fascinating, exciting and funny.

I was a little concerned that he repeats the story of Kitty Genovese who was killed in 1964; he states that "at least thirty-eight bystanders saw her lying there and did nothing." This repeats an urban legend started by the New York Times. Closer investigation, for example in Superfreakonomics or even wikipedia suggests that there were about a dozen witnesses of the attack, most of whom heard something (they certainly didn't see her lying there') but only two were aware that it was more than a quarrel. Even Ronson doesn't always get it right.

But

I'd read many of the stories in previous Ronson collections. Of the 26 stories I have read at least 7. That is more than 25%. The purchase price was £8.99 so I reckon that Ronson owes me at least £2.25.

I mean, what did he gain? 26 stories are a lot; he could have published a book with only 19 stories in it and I would still have been willing to pay £9 and enjoyed the 19 new stories. But now I feel cheated.

There is some small print on the title versa page which acknowledges that "portions of this book have appeared previously, in slightly different forms, in Out of the ordinary, What I do..." both of which I have read. So I can't say he didn't warn me. But he himself contains about the small print used by credit card companies which he calls the "tiniest of letters .... infinitesimal print." Perhaps someone who crusades on behalf of the weak and the gullible will be concerned with the reactions of one of his readers: I felt cheated.

I've now bought 5 of his books. Perhaps I won't buy any more.

June 2013; 471 pages but you don't have to read all of them if you've read some before.

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