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“The Call of the Weird” by Louis Theroux.

Call of the Weird by Louis TherouxWhen I’m traveling I tend to spend some time in planes or at airports where there’s nothing to do, really. Lately I’ve been trying to pick up a book to read instead of just staring into thin air. I usually browse the non-fiction section. I’m not quite sure why, maybe I prefer the real world. I have to admit that I’m rather inconsistent being that I praised science fiction a few weeks back – movies, books, TV series and whatnot.

Anyway, the last time I was traveling I picked up a copy of Louis Theroux’s “The Call of the Weird”, a title that undoubtedly plays on the title of Jack London’s book “The Call of the Wild”.

You might know Theroux already. He is a British TV presenter that for ten years has been making programs about the offbeat characters on the fringes of US society. One day he decides to return to the US of A and attempt to track down some of the people who have fascinated him the most over the years.

His journey takes him to the porn sets of Los Angeles, he visits UFO contactees in Arizona and goes to Northern Idaho for a festive get-together of leading neo-Nazis.

Although the idea is good – and maybe his shows were, too, I never actually watched any of them – the book somehow fails to entertain. It’s fairly well-written, but it’s never able to grab the reader’s attention in the way it should. And with the line-up Theroux has, it should be possible to get the reader to refuse to stop reading until the last page is finished. During the last hundred pages, I was seriously considering putting the book back in the book shelf and never open it again. But since I had decided to write this quick review I felt I couldn’t do that without actually having read the entire book.

It’s quite possible that the entertainment value of the book would have been higher if I had seen some of Theroux’s shows, maybe even recognized some of the characters. Sadly, I haven’t. Maybe Theroux’s talent is in television?

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  1. Although I’m not the biggest fan of this kind of television programmes, Theroux’ is rather well done. He obviously has a great team of editors and researchers that make it all look surprisingly natural and improvised. I don’t know if that is always the case in reality.

    Nonetheless, watching him play the ignorant, foolish nerd, tempting and sometimes even annoying his subjects, is interesting enough.

    I saw the one episode where he meets a neo-Nazi mom and her two children. That was quite unsettling and eerily fascinating.

    If you ever get the chance, try and watch an episode. It’s worth at least that.

    I love to read his father’s travel books (Paul), but I haven’t read anything by Louis. Perhaps I’ll check him out at the library.

  2. He re-vists the neo-Nazi mom and her two children in the book. Based on how he describes his first visit, things are basically the same the second time around.