This is the March book of the month for the Sharing Stories campaign, and seeing as the cover was so pretty and we’d bought a copy for work I thought I better actually read it before promoting it!
I’d read The Men Who Stare At Goats years ago and, although I found it strangely fascinating, I didn’t really get his style. Was this investigative journalism or a man finding out things? This book, for me, confirmed the two are not dissimilar. There is no real structure to this book, he’s not investigating a single issue, its more of a journey of finding out bits and bobs about the world and linking them under the theme of ‘madness’.
Jon Ronson looks not only at people who are born mad, but also those that acquire madness and those that have madness thrust upon them. He also looks, in some incredibly dark and sad chapters, at the effect other’s madness has on the world and the sad history of how madness is treated, in this country and the States.
Jon Ronson also makes some startling claims about psychopathy, and basically accuses several powerful people of being so. The chapters where he meets powerful, rich businessmen who have singlehandedly destroyed small towns across America with their selfishness and greed is startling, but I would say labelling that persons actions as ‘mad’ is excusing their behaviour as unavoidable.Rather than picking apart why capitalism works the way it does he says ‘well, it’s because they’re psychopaths’, and that doesn’t sit well with me.
I also thought the claims this book is ‘funny’ were wrong and insulting. Unless you find people who spend their lives covered in shit funny, I suppose, or people slashing their wrists. I found this book interesting, and as a non-fic, accessible way of getting someone reading and thinking a little about how they treat people with mental illness then yes, I’d recommend it, but as a hilarious light-hearted read-no.
I also read the chapter on spotting psychopaths on a very early morning Megabus to Bristol (which I will blog about soon I promise) and was utterly convinced I was going to have my head cut off for a good three hours trapped on a bus, which may have clouded my reading of this novel. A strange one. I do now really want to read Them, his other book, about global conspiracy theories, but I wouldn’t go on record on saying I’m a huge fan.