I don’t usually read books about the real world. I’ve been there, it’s pretty boring, why would I read a book about it? But in the case of Them – Adventures with extremists, by the lovely Jon Ronson, I had heard so much about it*, I decided to give it a chance.
I won’t go into too much detail so as not to give too much away (and also, you never know who may be listening. If anything happens to me after writing this, avenge me!) but Them is the story of Jon’s research into the world(s) of the people we label as “extremists”. Of course, from their point of view, we are the wrong’uns… Hence the deeper meaning of the title “Them”. When does “Them” become “Us”, and given their own convictions of being completely in the right, how can we be sure that they are wrong and We are not, in fact, Them?
The style of Jon’s writing is a refreshing touch to what could easily have drifted off into yet another boring account of journalistic research into yet another load of conspiracy theories and secret organisations. He manages to make the whole adventure amusing without once making fun of the people he encounters, no matter how insane, scary or insulting they may be. Some of the situations made me smile, even giggle, others made me genuinely sad. No matter what the people involved said or did, Jon relates it in the most respectful way possible, and I think it’s probably that part of his attitude that enabled him to delve so far into the various worlds of these extraordinary people and organisations.
His next book, The Men Who Stare At Goats, has been made into a Big Hollywood Movie™ with George Clooney, Ewan McGregor, Kevin Spacey and Jeff Bridges. I have seen the trailer, and you should too, it looks amazing. Although the film is apparently not a direct translation of the book, if Them is anything to go by, the book is probably awesome**. In fact, I’m going to stop writing now and go read it. I’ll let you know.
If I don’t show any sign of life for a few days, then they’ve got to me. Send help.
Jon’s website is here, by the way.
*Admittedly, most of what I had heard was from Jon himself, so maybe not the most unbiased opinion ever, but hey, at least he was right.
**I feel I must be honest, however, Them did disappoint me a little: after all that effort, Jon never bothered to interview or take pictures of the giant lizards who rule the world. I really would have liked to know what they look like in their reptilian form. Bit of a half-arsed effort there Jon. Unless, of course, you’re protecting them…