Saturday, January 7, 2012
50 Book Challenge 2012 Book #1: The Call Of The Weird
Louis Theroux is a journalist who has made a name for himself in gonzo journalism through a series of television documentaries where he immerses himself in the world of the strange. Well, strange to the average BBC viewer, anyway. His works largely in America, where his schtick is to present as a slightly naive, slightly bumbling Englishman looking to learn more about the ways of the weird people he encounters. Somehow, he manages to elicit the most astonishing revelations from people and still remain utterly charming and likeable.
Louis' Weird Weekends series is a program where he visits a different person or group of people in each episode, each with their own specific quirk or agenda. They run the gamut from the odd but basically harmless (the main players involved in informercials, UFO spotters, porn actors), to the downright terrifying (white supremacists, South African separatists, survivalists, the Westboro freak show). His kind manner and finely-honed listening skills stop him from straying into odious 'gotcha' territory most of the time (though he does have a way of getting complete douchebags to unwittingly reveal themselves as complete douchebags), and he seems to genuinely care about the odd people he encounters. He has a knack for making subjects I have absolutely zero interest in (wrestling, demolition derby) fascinating. In short, I worship him.
The Call Of The Weird revisits some of those people he met in his TV series, including a dodgy motivational speaker who had been busted for fraud and other shenanigans, a not very successful male porn actor, a scary, hateful white supremacist and a strangely likeable right-wing militia survivalist who has since left the cause. It's not much more than a series of little 'so what became of them' stories, and there are not many surprises about what did become of these people. If you haven't seen the documentaries, the book will mean nothing, but for me it was a pleasant trip back to follow up on many people I remembered, and I'm exactly the kind of person who wonders what happens after the camera stops rolling.