Exclus1ves’ Lood du Plessis had the opportunity to catch up with Jon Ronson, journalist, documentary filmmaker and author of The Men Who Stare at Goats.
Exclus1ves: First of all, thank you very much for agreeing to do this interview with us.
For our readers who are not familiar with you, could you describe yourself in 20 words or less?
Jon Ronson: I write funny nonfiction adventure books about crazy, serious worlds.
EB: You’ve worked in all the major media genres including film and television, music, radio and printed media. Where would you say your passion lies?
JR: Oh books. Definitely books. Not that I don’t love the other stuff. But books.
EB: Throughout your travels you have come across many interesting people and places. Which story would you classify as the strangest you have ever worked on?
JR: They’re all pretty strange. For my book Them I investigated (snuck into) a secret club called Bohemian Grove where world leaders dress in robes and hoods and undertake a very odd ritual in which a human effigy is thrown into the fiery belly of a giant owl. Honestly.
EB: The Men Who Stare at Goats deals with the U.S. Army’s exploration of New Age concepts and the potential military application of the paranormal. How did you initially stumble across the story?
JR: It was a psychologist called Ray Hyman who’d worked briefly with the CIA. He told me he’d met a US General Stubblebine who thought he could burst clouds with the power of his mind, and a Lieutenant Colonel Channon who was training soldiers to eat only nuts for a month. Those were his exact memories – and they were the acorns from which the mighty The Men Who Stare at Goats oak grew.
EB: You dedicated The Men Who Stare at Goats
to John Sergeant, what was it like working with him?
JR: He’s not the famous John Sergeant. he’s another John Sergeant: an excellent, brilliant researcher, although very sadly we don’t talk now.
EB: The Men Who Stare at Goats has recently been adapted into a film. Other than writing the book, did you have any contribution to the film?
JR: No, other than a set visit and a few days at the premiers, which were fun, but not as much fun as scouring the world looking for crazy covert stories.
EB: With The Men Who Stare at Goats on the big screen and the adaptation of your other book, Them, in production, are we likely to see more of your books adapted to film?
JR: Yes. I have co-written with Peter Straughan a screenplay called Frank based on a short thing I once wrote about being in a band. I’m hoping that will be filmed in the autumn.
EB: Your book contains far-out ideas like Psy-ops, New Age warfare, people trying to walk through walls and the infamous attempt to stop the hearts of goats by staring at them. Do you believe any of this?
EB: Which book would you name your favourite book of all time, and why?
JR: Either Slaughterhouse 5 by Kurt Vonnegut or What A Carve Up by Jonathan Coe. I love the style of the first and the scope of the second.
EB: Lastly, you’ve covered the extremists in Them, the US Army in The Men Who Stare at Goats, and even parts of your personal life in Out of the Ordinary and What I Do – What can we expect from Jon Ronson in the future?
JR: I’m writing a funny book about psychopaths
EB: Thank you for taking the time to respond to our questions.
JR: Thanks! I enjoyed it!