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Fresh Air Fiend: Travel Writings, 1985-2000by Paul Theroux
Synopses & Reviews
Fresh Air Fiend is Theroux's first collection devoted exclusively to travel writing, for which the author of such classics as The Great Railway Bazaar and Riding The Iron Rooster (as well as more than twenty works of fiction, including The Mosquito Coast) is justly famous around the globe.
Wonderfully broad in scope, thought, and feeling, the book touches down on five continents and floats through most of the seas in between. From the crisp quiet of a solitary week spent in the snow-bound Maine woods, to the expectant chaos of Hong Kong on the eve of the Hand-over, to a remote island in the Pacific where the first atomic bombs were detonated, Theroux is the perfect guide casually informative, keenly observant, wry, and entertaining. As Time has written, Theroux "serves as both the camera and the eye, and both the details and the illusions are developed with brilliance." He also reaches back into his past to tell of his earliest ventures into Africa as a Peace Corps volunteer, treats us to insightful readings of his favorite travel writing classics, and reveals the fascinating stories behind some of his own.
In this remarkable collection of essays and articles written over the last fifteen years, Paul Theroux demonstrates how the traveling life and the writing life are intimately connected. His journeys in remote hinterlands and crowded foreign capitals provide the necessary perspective to "become a stranger" in order to discover the self.
Traveling with Theroux is a literary adventure of the first order, never a languid luxury cruise, always an insightful journey to the heart and soul of a place and its people. Fresh Air Fiend is the ultimate good read for anyone fascinated by travel and travel writing. It's a perfect introduction to the author's work and an excellent, overarching collection for longtime readers and fans.
"Theroux the traveler is serious in his energy and in his boundless determination to see what he wants to see . . . He is an indefatigable voyager." The Washington Post
"An irresistible storyteller, able to hook you with his first few lines. He dazzles not just with the number of places he writes about but the number he can evoke as if they were home." The Chicago Tribune
"What makes Paul Theroux so good is what always separates the fine writers from the pack: his ability to look at the familiar in a fresh, original way - and make us richer for it." The Philadelphia Inquirer
"A feast for both Theroux aficionados and those lucky enough to experience his distinctive world-view and evocative prose for the first time." Kirkus Reviews
"[Paul Theroux is] one of the best English-language travel writers alive....[Fresh-Air Fiend] contains startling encounters, luminous scenes, wry insights and beautiful writing." Financial Times (U.K.)
"Lively and insightful....Fresh-Air Fiend is rich with information, intelligent discourse, humour and plain old good storytelling." Globe and Mail
Paul Theroux's first collection of essays and articles devoted entirely to travel writing, FRESH AIR FIEND touches down on five continents and floats through most seas in between to deliver a literary adventure of the first order, with the incomparable Paul Theroux as a guide. From the crisp quiet of a solitary week spent in the snowbound Maine woods to the expectant chaos of Hong Kong on the eve of the Hand-over, Theroux demonstrates how the traveling life and the writing life are intimately connected. His journeys in remote hinterlands and crowded foreign capitals provide the necessary perspective to "become a stranger" in order to discover the self. A companion volume to SUNRISE WITH SEAMONSTERS, FRESH AIR FIEND is the ultimate good read for anyone fascinated by travel in the wider world or curious about the life of one of our most passionate travelers.
Whether it is trekking through the icy Maine woods, or journeying to a remote island in the South Pacific where the first atomic bombs were detonated, Theroux serves as both camera and the eye. This collection of essays and articles is the ultimate good read for anyone fascinated by travel.
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.
Table of Contents
Introduction: Being a Stranger 1
one / time travel
Memory and Creation: The View from Fifty 17
The Object of Desire 35
At the Sharp End: Being in the Peace Corps 40
Five Travel Epiphanies 46
Travel Writing: The Point of It 49
two / fresh air fiend
Fresh Air Fiend 57
The Awkward Question 62
The Moving Target 65
Dead Reckoning to Nantucket 70
Paddling to Plymouth 79
Fever Chart: Parasites I Have Known 85
three / a sense of place
Diaries of Two Cities: Amsterdam and London 93
Farewell to Britain: Look Thy Last on All Things Lovely 102
Gravy Train: A Private Railway Car 106
The Maine Woods: Camping in the Snow 113
Trespassing in Florida 120
Down the Zambezi 126
The True Size of Cape Cod 148
German Humor 151
four / china
Down the Yangtze 157
Chinese Miracles 189
Ghost Stories: A Letter from Hong Kong on the Eve of the Hand-over 236
five / the pacific
The Other Oahu 271
On Molokai 277
Connected in Palau 283
Tasting the Pacific 293
Palawan: Up and Down the Creek 298
Christmas Island: Bombs and Birds 312
six / books of travel
My Own 323
The Edge of the Great Rift: Three African Novels 323
The Black House 328
The Great Railway Bazaar 330
The Old Patagonian Express 336
The Making of The Mosquito Coast 341
Kowloon Tong 347
Other People's 349
Robinson Crusoe 349
Thoreau's Cape Cod 355
The Secret Agent: A Dangerous Londoner 363
The Worst Journey in the World 372
Racers to the Pole 378
Looking for a Ship 388
seven / escapees and exiles
Chatwin Revisited 395
V. S. Pritchett: The Foreigner as Traveler 419
William Simpson: Artist and Traveler 423
Rajat Neogy: An Indian in Uganda 432
The Exile Moritz Thomsen 435
eight / fugues
Unspeakable Rituals and Outlandish Beliefs 443
Gilstrap, the Homesick Explorer 454
The Return of Bingo Humpage 459
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