The Men Who Stare at Goats
by Jon Ronson
read by Sean Mangan
This book is awesomely hilarious. Hilarious, if, you know, you can get past the very real horror that is mixed in with the craziness. Apparently, I can. In many ways, the book as a whole reminded me of Keller’s Catch-22, an awesomely hilarious comedy all about the inhumanity of war.
And unfortunately, I once more have to warn for animal harm. Given the intent (by the men who stare at goats) of doing harm, I shouldn’t be surprised, but given the proposed method (i.e., staring), I found I was surprised after all. (It hadn’t occurred to me to ask: where are these goats coming from?) Plus, once we’re past the animal harm, we then move on to torture of prisoners.
Somehow it still manages to be super funny.
Jon Stewart on the Daily Show called Jon Ronson’s writing “investigative satire” and that’s pretty much what it is. This book is also an illustration of the phrase: “Truth is stranger than fiction, (because fiction has to make sense.)” In the final chapter of this book, Ronson sums it up by explaining that this is the story of how, in the aftermath of the Vietnam War, the discouraged and demoralized U.S. army attempted to incorporate some of the “New Age” culture that was developing, but in true military style, rather than seeking new ways to find peace, they looked for new ways to make war.
Ronson himself is also quite the character: a soft-spoken, somewhat nebbish guy. He’s gone on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, twice, so you can see him for yourself. It’s worth seeing him for yourself, especially if you’re planning on listening to the audiobook version of this book, because, in stark contrast to Ronson, Sean Mangan reads the text with a deep intent and melodrama that just adds an extra layer of hilarity to it all.
There are a lot of conversations in which the various interviewees are saying something either crazy or horrifying or both, and Ronson is recounting the conversation:
So-and-so said: some crazy and/or horrifying thing
I said, “hmm.”
Now imagine that spoken in a deeply melodramatic fashion.
“I said,” Mangan intones, “hmm.”
I, the listener, can’t help but giggle.
To use Kinsey’s practice of a Three Word Review: funny, informative, disturbing
I think I probably have to suck it up and deal with the animal harm in order to read this, in order to complete my Jon Ronson run. (Although it looks like he just came out with a new book last year that I also need to check out.)