“A traveler has no power, no influence, no known identity. That is why a traveler needs optimism and heart because without confidence, travel is misery. You need the people you meet. You need their protection . . . their good will. There are some amazingly arrogant people who think that because they are American, for example, they can collect hospitality just because they come from a wonderful country that has been very generous. They are surprised that people don’t give them respect they think they deserve. If you’re smart, you’ll be polite, you’ll develop good manners.”
These words are from Paul Theroux, novelist, essayist and travel writer whom many critics have deemed “irascible” and “grumpy.” This travel-savvy author defends himself by stating that his works are ironic, sarcastic, humorous and honest — and that really, he is a pretty good-tempered person.
Born in Medford, Massachusetts, in 1941, Theroux was one of seven children born to a Canadian father and Italian mother. He attended the University of Maine where he refused to join the required R.O.T.C. and wrote many anti-Vietnam war editorials. He later transferred to the University of Massachusetts where his developing passion for writing prompted him to switch his major from premed to English.
Theroux trained for the Peace Corps and was then sent to Malawi, Africa where he taught at Soche Hill College. For his part in a failed coup of the Malawi dictator, Theroux was expelled from the country and dismissed from the Peace Corps. His love for Africa drew him to Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda where he taught English. It was in Uganda that he met his first wife, Anne Castle, also a teacher, and the 2001 Nobel Prize Winner V. S. Naipaul. Marcel, Theroux’s first son, was born in Uganda in 1968. His next teaching assignment took him to the University of Singapore, and it was here that his second son Louis was born in 1969. He was writing novels during these teaching years, and it was in Singapore that he finally decided to become a professional writer.
The Great Railway Bazaar: By Train Through Asia written in 1975, was Theroux’s first travel novel to distinguish him as a writer. Since then, he’s won many awards and several of his titles have been adapted into film including The Mosquito Coast. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and the Royal Geographic Society in Britain. He holds honorary doctorates in literature from Trinity College, Washington, D.C. and Tufts University of Massachusetts.
For those who love to read about exotic, faraway places, Paul Theroux’s books provide a wonderful opportunity to visit these lands without leaving the comforts of your own homes. He is a keen, witty observer of human nature and is unafraid to reveal the history and politics of a region in what some would deem a highly critical manner. Theroux’s journeys are always enlightening, honest and not your usual “travel is wonderful” type of story.
At present Theroux divides his time between Cape Cod and Hawaii. He continues to write and has becomes a beekeeper and sells his honey under the brand name of Oceania Ranch Pure Hawaiian Honey.
* Available at other LINC libraries
- A Also available as a CD audiobook
- LP Also available in Large Print
- E Also available as an e-book
- P Also available as a Playaway
- Ea Also available as an E audiobook
The Lower River (2012) A
Murder in Mount Holly (2011)
A Dead Hand: A Crime in Calcutta (2010) A
The Elephanta Suite (2007)
Blinding Light (2005)
Hotel Honolulu (2001)
Kowloon Tong (1997)
The Collected Stories (1997)
Chicago Loop (1990) *
Half Moon Street: Two Short Novels (1984)
The Mosquito Coast (1983)
The Last Train to Zona Verde: My Ultimate African Safari (2013) A 916.8 THE
The Tao of Travel: Enlightenments from Lives on the Road (2011) 910.4 THE
Ghost Train to the Eastern Star: On the Tracks of the Great Railway Bazaar (2008) P, A 915 THE
The Great Railway Bazaar: By Train Through Asia (2006) 915.04 THE
Dark Star Safari: Overland from Cairo to Cape Town (2003) A 916 THE
Sir Vidia’s Shadow: A Friendship Across Five Continents (1998) 813.54 THE
The Pillars of Hercules: A Grand Tour of the Mediterranean (1995) 910.91822 THE
The Happy Isles of Oceania: Paddling the Pacific (1992) 919.504 THE
To the Ends of the Earth: The Selected Travels of Paul Theroux (1991) 910.4 THE
The Kingdom by the Sea: A Journey Around Britain (1983) 914.1 THE
The Old Patagonian Express: By Train Through the Americas (1979) 917.0453 THE