Aha Moment: Jon Ronson on Kurt Vonnegut

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Kurt Vonnegut is a serious writer who holds a special place in the hearts of teenagers (including a young Kurt Andersen). Jon Ronson got hooked on Vonnegut when he was 15. For his long train rides from Cardiff, Wales, to look at colleges, Ronson packed a bag with Vonnegut’s novels, including Slaughterhouse Five. “It was like I was on the cusp of a new life,” he remembers. “I was about to go out into the world and Vonnegut was my companion.”

Ronson grew up to write journalism that creatively investigates weirdness of various flavors — from alien abductions to neo-Nazi gatherings. His bestseller The Men Who Stare at Goats (made into a movie with George Clooney) is about US military programs that tried to exploit paranormal powers. Vonnegut “made me very much want to be a writer,” Ronson says. At the same time, ”because he puts himself in his books and he always portrays himself as quite miserable, I thought ‘God, I don’t want to be a writer if that’s your life, all alone in a room, chain-smoking.’”

“When I look back on like everything I’ve written time and again it's very Vonnegut-ish. Because every good story that I write is about people trying to do good in a difficult, crazy, absurd world.”

Ronson’s new book is a collection of real-life mysteries called Lost At Sea.


→ What’s your favorite Kurt Vonnegut novel and how did you first encounter it? Tell us in a comment below.

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