Reading Paul Theroux

November 24, 2007

Over the years I’ve found very few writers as satisfying as Paul Theroux. There’s a very good fan site to his writing here, and his publisher-sponsored site is here. Theroux writes travel books, but not the sipping-champagne-on-the-cruise-ship variety, but rather the take-a-train-to-the-ends-of-the-earth type. I find it amazingly good escapist reading, and a pretty good education as well. Theroux is a writer, most notably of The Mosquito Coast, as well as a geography teacher, and it is his knowledge of geography, and the cultural history of a region that give his travel writings so much depth and color.

The book I’ve read the most is The Old Patagonian Express, about taking a train from Boston to the Patagonian Plains of Argentina. I just read it again, for something like the fourth time, and once again learned new things about Central and South America that my previous readings had failed to uncover. More importantly, I was staring at a long (business) trip to South America that I wasn’t particularly looking forward to, and reading Theroux made it seem like I was embarking on a long journey, rather than taking a few plane rides and then sitting in workshops at a university all day.

Inspired by that book, I bought Dark Star Safari, about traveling overland from Cairo to Capetown in Africa, and Pillars of Hercules, about traveling around the Mediterranean coast, to take with me on my journey. Both books had the same effect as Patagonian Express: they made me realize that the part of travel we look back upon most fondly are the delays and the frustrations that occur along the way. Having your bags rifled through and your razor confiscated in the middle of nowhere is frustrating, but looking back on it from a sterile office, that hassle and the accompanying delays seem almost romantic.

Reminds me that it’s high time to reread The Great Railway Bazaar.


One Response to “Reading Paul Theroux”

  1. […] December 4, 2007 In an earlier post, I mentioned how much I like Paul Theroux’s travel books. Theroux mentioned that he keeps a […]

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