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The Old Patagonian Express: By Train Through the Americasby Paul Theroux
Synopses & Reviews
Starting with a rush-hour subway ride to South Station in Boston to catch the Lake Shore Limited to Chicago, Theroux winds up on the poky, wandering Old Patagonian Express steam engine, which comes to a halt in a desolate land of cracked hills and thorn bushes. But with Theroux the view along the way is what matters: the monologuing Mr. Thornberry in Costa Rica, the bogus priest of Cali, and the blind Jorge Luis Borges, who delights in having Theroux read Robert Louis Stevenson to him.
About the Author
Paul Theroux was born and raised in Medford, Massachusetts, where he attended public schools (and was a classmate of Michael Bloomberg, the mayor of New York City; both were Eagle Scouts). He graduated from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst with a science major and intended to pursue a career in medicine, but his desire to travel and his passion to write derailed plans for a future Dr. Theroux.
Before Theroux became a professional writer he taught in various countries. His first job?and his best as a salaried employee?was as a lecturer in English at the University of Urbino in Italy. The university was housed in a duke's palace, and all of his students were young Italian women. This was in the summer of 1963. Six months later he was a Peace Corps teacher at a school in central Africa and was living in the bush. In 1965 Theroux was "terminated early" from the Peace Corps in Malawi for "engaging in politics." In reality, what he did was drive a friend's car from Malawi to Uganda?unfortunately, that friend had been forced to leave the country for siding with the opposition. For the next four years Theroux was a lecturer in English at Makerere University, in Kampala, Uganda, where he met and married his first wife. In 1968 he moved to Singapore and joined the English Department at the University of Singapore.
In 1967 Theroux's first novel, Waldo, was published. Late in 1971 he gave up teaching to write full time and moved to England, where he lived off and on for the next seventeen years.
Theroux virtually reinvented the genre of travel writing, beginning with The Great Railway Bazaar: By Train Through Asia, published in 1975 by Houghton Mifflin. Since then he has dazzled critics and readers alike with books about his trips through China (Riding the Iron Rooster, Sailing Through China), Great Britain (The Kingdom by the Sea), India (The Imperial Way), Latin America (The Old Patagonian Express), the Pacific islands (The Happy Isles of Oceania), and the Mediterranean (The Pillars of Hercules).
In addition to his fourteen works of nonfiction and criticism, Theroux is the author of twenty-four novels, including Hotel Honolulu, Kowloon Tong, My Other Life, and Millroy the Magician. His novels Saint Jack, The Mosquito Coast, and Half Moon Street have been made into successful feature films, and he has won the prestigious Whitbread Prize for Picture Palace and the James Tait Black Award for The Mosquito Coast.
During his travels in the Pacific, Theroux came to love Hawaii. He is now married to a Hawaiian woman and they live in the woods on the North Shore of Oahu, among many birds and geese and bees, which form his apiary?Theroux is also a beekeeper. He spends summers on Cape Cod, not far from where he grew up.
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