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The Tao of Travel: Enlightenments from Lives on the Roadby Paul Theroux
Synopses & Reviews
Thirty years after the epic journey chronicled in his classic work The Great Railway Bazaar, the worlds most acclaimed travel writer re-creates his 25,000-mile journey through eastern Europe, central Asia, the Indian subcontinent, China, Japan, and Siberia.
Half a lifetime ago, Paul Theroux virtually invented the modern travel narrative by recounting his grand tour by train through Asia. In the three decades since, the world he recorded in that book has undergone phenomenal change. The Soviet Union has collapsed and China has risen; India booms while Burma smothers under dictatorship; Vietnam flourishes in the aftermath of the havoc America was unleashing on it the last time Theroux passed through. And no one is better able to capture the texture, sights, smells, and sounds of that changing landscape than Theroux.
Therouxs odyssey takes him from eastern Europe, still hung-over from communism, through tense but thriving Turkey into the Caucasus, where Georgia limps back toward feudalism while its neighbor Azerbaijan revels in oil-fueled capitalism. Theroux is firsthand witness to it all, traveling as the locals do—by stifling train, rattletrap bus, illicit taxi, and mud-caked foot—encountering adventures only he could have: from the literary (sparring with the incisive Nobel laureate Orhan Pamuk) to the dissolute (surviving a week-long bender on the Trans-Siberian Railroad). And wherever he goes, his omnivorous curiosity and unerring eye for detail never fail to inspire, enlighten, inform, and entertain.
PAUL THEROUX was born in Medford, Massachusetts, in 1941 and published his first novel, Waldo, in 1967. His fiction includes The Mosquito Coast, My Secret History, My Other Life, Kowloon Tong, Blinding Light, and most recently, The Elephanta Suite. His highly acclaimed travel books include Riding the Iron Rooster, The Great Railway Bazaar, The Old Patagonian Express, Fresh Air Fiend, and Dark Star Safari. He has been the guest editor of The Best American Travel Writing and is a frequent contributor to various magazines, including The New Yorker. He lives in Hawaii and on Cape Cod.
"Travel maestro Theroux (The Great Railway Bazaar) conducts a rambling tour of the genre in this diverting meditation on passages from his own and other writers' works. Several chapters spotlight underappreciated travel writers from Samuel Johnson to Paul Bowles, while others explore themes both profound and whimsical. There are classic set-piece literary evocations, including Thoreau on the hush of the Maine woods and Henry James on the miserable pleasures of Venice. A section on storied but disappointing destinations fingers Tahiti as 'a mildewed island of surly colonials'; travel epics — shipwrecks, Sahara crossings, Jon Krakauer's duel with Mount Everest — are celebrated; exotic meals are recalled (beetles, monkey eyes, and human flesh, anyone?); and some writers, like Emily Dickinson, just stay home and write about that. The weakest section is a compendium of aphoristic abstractions — 'Travel is a vanishing act, a solitary trip down a pinched line of geography to oblivion' — while the strongest pieces descry a tangible place through a discerning eye and pungent sensibility: 'I do not think I shall ever forget the sight of Etna at sunset,' Evelyn Waugh rhapsodizes; 'othing I have seen in Art or Nature was quite so revolting.' Photos. (May 26)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright PWyxz LLC)
Book News Annotation:
This attractive imitation leather bound volume presents collected excerpts from the works of famed travel writer and novelist Paul Theroux (The Great Railway Bazaar, Mosquito Coast). Taken from over forty years of travel experience, the texts offer a window into the author's philosophy of travel as well as his thoughts on the historical journeys of a variety of other authors. The brief entries are pleasant for browsing as well as reading straight through. The volume includes twenty-seven separate vignettes indexed by both people and places. Annotation ©2011 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
Ninety-nine years of colonial rule are ending as the British prepare to hand over Hong Kong to China. For Betty Mullard and her son, Bunt, it doesn't concern them - until the mysterious Mr. Hung from the mainland offers them a large sum for their family business. They refuse, yet fail to realize Mr. Hung is unlike the Chinese they've known: he will accept no refusals. When a young female employee whom Bunt has been dating vanishes, he is forced to make important decisions for the first time in his life - but his good intentions are pitted against the will of Mr. Hung and the threat of the ultimate betrayal.
From the best-selling author of Dark Star Safari and Hotel Honolulu, Paul Theroux's latest offers provocative tales of memory and desire. The sensual story of an unusual love affair leads the collection. The thrill and risk of pursuit and conquest mark the accompanying stories, which tell of the sexual awakening and rites of passage of a Boston boyhood, the ruin of a writer in Africa, and the bewitchment of a retiree in Hawaii. Filled with Theroux's typically exquisite yet devastating descriptions of people and places, The Stranger at the Palazzo D'Oro evokes "the complexities of matters of the heart with subtlety and grace" (People).
In the Washington Post Book World, Sven Birkerts called this exuberant novel "a complex and gripping work of invention and confession . . . I understood again how the prose of a true writer can bring us to a world beyond." The book spans almost thirty years in the life of a fictional "Paul Theroux," who moves through young bachelorhood in Africa, in and out of marriage, affairs, and employment, and between continents. It's a wry, worldly, erotic, and deeply moving account of one man's first half century - "among the strongest things Theroux has ever written" (New York Times Book Review).
From the New York Times best-selling author Paul Theroux, Blinding Light is a slyly satirical novel of manners and mind expansion. Slade Steadman, a writer who has lost his chops, sets out for the Ecuadorian jungle with his ex-girlfriend in search of inspiration and a rare hallucinogen. The drug, once found, heightens both his powers of perception and his libido, but it also leaves him with an unfortunate side effect: periodic blindness. Unable to resist the insights that enable him to write again, Steadman spends the next year of his life in thrall to his psychedelic muse and his erotic fantasies, with consequences that are both ecstatic and disastrous.
Paul Theroux, the author of the train travel classics The Great Railway Bazaar and The Old Patagonian Express, takes to the rails once again in this account of his epic journey through China. He hops aboard as part of a tour group in London and sets out for China's border. He then spends a year traversing the country, where he pieces together a fascinating snapshot of a unique moment in history. From the barren deserts of Xinjiang to the ice forests of Manchuria, from the dense metropolises of Shanghai, Beijing, and Canton to the dry hills of Tibet, Theroux offers an unforgettable portrait of a magnificent land and an extraordinary people.
In this wickedly satiric romp, Paul Theroux captures the essence of Hawaii as it has never been depicted. The novel's narrator, a down-on-his-luck writer, escapes to Waikiki and soon finds himself the manager of the Hotel Honolulu, a low-rent establishment a few blocks off the beach. Honeymooners, vacationers, wanderers, mythomaniacs, soldiers, and families all check in to the hotel. Like the Canterbury pilgrims, every guest has come in search of something — sun, love, happiness, objects of unnameable longing — and everyone has a story. By turns hilarious, ribald, tender, and tragic, HOTEL HONOLULU offers a unique glimpse of the psychological landscape of an American paradise.
Already a best-selling addition to the series, this years Best American Travel Writing is a far-flung collection chosen by travel writer extraordinaire Paul Theroux, who has selected pieces about the spell in the wilderness, the letter home from foreign parts, the dangerous adventure, the sentimental journey, the exposé, the shocking revelation, the eyewitness report, the ordeal, the quest . . . Travel is an attitude, a state of mind.” Therouxs most recent novel is Hotel Honolulu.
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.
After eleven years as an American living in London, the renowned travel writer Paul Theroux set out to travel clockwise around the coast of Great Britain to find out what the British were really like. The result is this perceptive, hilarious record of the journey. Whether in Cornwall or Wales, Ulster or Scotland, the people he encountered along the way revealed far more of themselves than they perhaps intended to display to a stranger. Theroux captured their rich and varied conversational commentary with caustic wit and penetrating insight.
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.
This startling, far-reaching book captures the tumult, ambition, hardship, and serenity that mark todays India. Therouxs Westerners risk venturing far beyond the subcontinents well-worn paths to discover woe or truth or peace. A middle-aged couple on vacation veers heedlessly from idyll to chaos. A buttoned-up Boston lawyer finds succor in Mumbais reeking slums. And a young woman befriends an elephant in Bangalore. We also meet Indian characters as singular as they are reflective of the countrys subtle ironies: an executive who yearns to become a holy beggar, an earnest striver whose personality is rewired by acquiring an American accent, a miracle-working guru, and others.
As ever, Therouxs portraits of people and places explode stereotypes to exhilarating effect. The Elephanta Suite is a welcome gift to readers of international fiction and fans of this extraordinary writer.
In a breathtaking adventure story, the paranoid and brilliant inventor Allie Fox takes his family to live in the Honduran jungle, determined to build a civilization better than the one they've left. Fleeing from an America he sees as mired in materialism and conformity, he hopes to rediscover a purer life. But his utopian experiment takes a dark turn when his obsessions lead the family toward unimaginable danger.
The journeys of Paul Theroux take place not only in exotic, unexpected places of the world but in the thoughts, reading, and emotions of the writer himself. A gathering of people, places, and ideas in fifty glittering pieces of gold.
A philosophical guidebook and collection of insights celebrating the joy of travel, chosen by eminent travel writer Paul Theroux
This heartfelt and revealing account of Paul Theroux's thirty-year friendship with the legendary V. S. Naipaul is an intimate record of a literary mentorship that traces the growth of both writers' careers and explores the unique effect each had on the other. Built around exotic landscapes, anecdotes that are revealing, humorous, and melancholy, and three decades of mutual history, this is a personal account of how one develops as a writer and how a friendship waxes and wanes between two men who have set themselves on the perilous journey of a writing life.
A new novel from the world's favorite travel writer and best-selling author of the novels The Mosquito Coast and The Elephanta Suite.
In the travel-writing tradition that made Paul Therouxs reputation, Dark Star Safari is a rich and insightful book whose itinerary is Africa, from Cairo to Cape Town: down the Nile, through Sudan and Ethiopia, to Kenya, Uganda, and ultimately to the tip of South Africa. Going by train, dugout canoe, chicken bus,” and cattle truck, Theroux passes through some of the most beautiful — and often life-threatening — landscapes on earth.
This is travel as discovery and also, in part, a sentimental journey. Almost forty years ago, Theroux first went to Africa as a teacher in the Malawi bush. Now he stops at his old school, sees former students, revisits his African friends. He finds astonishing, devastating changes wherever he goes. Africa is materially more decrepit than it was when I first knew it,” he writes, hungrier, poorer, less educated, more pessimistic, more corrupt, and you cant tell the politicians from the witch doctors. Not that Africa is one place. It is an assortment of motley republics and seedy chiefdoms. I got sick, I got stranded, but I was never bored. In fact, my trip was a delight and a revelation.” Seeing firsthand what is happening across Africa, Theroux is as obsessively curious and wittily observant as always, and his readers will find themselves on an epic and enlightening journey. Dark Star Safari is one of his bravest and best books.
“A book to be plundered and raided.” — New York Times Book Review
“A portal into a world of timeless travel literature curated by one of the greatest travel writers of our day.” — USA Today
Paul Theroux celebrates fifty years of wandering the globe in this collection of the best writing from the books that have shaped him as a reader and a traveler. Part philosophical guide, part miscellany, part reminiscence, The Tao of Travel contains excerpts from the best of Theroux’s own work interspersed with selections from travelers both familiar and unexpected:
Vladimir Nabokov Eudora Welty
Evelyn Waugh James Baldwin
Charles Dickens Pico Iyer
Henry David Thoreau Anton Chekhov
Mark Twain John McPhee
Freya Stark Ernest Hemingway
Graham Greene and many others
“Dazzling . . . Like someone panning for gold, Theroux reread hundreds of travel classics and modern works, shaking out the nuggets.” — San Francisco Chronicle
About the Author
PAUL THEROUX's highly acclaimed novels include Blinding Light, Hotel Honolulu, My Other Life, Kowloon Tong, and The Mosquito Coast. His travel books include Ghost Train to the Eastern Star, Dark Star Safari, Riding the Iron Rooster, The Great Railway Bazaar, The Old Patagonian Express, and The Happy Isles of Oceania. He lives in Hawaii and on Cape Cod.
Table of Contents
Part One AFRICA
1. Famous in Kampala 3 2. "I'm Not Everyone" 17 3. The Kaptagat Arms 44 4. On Safari in Rwanda 72
Part Two THE WRITER'S WRITER
5. Christmas Pudding 103 6. Excursion to Oxford 130 7. Air Letters: A Correspondence Course 144 8. The 9:50 to Waterloo 165 9. "I Must Keep Some Secrets" 185 10. Lunch Party 203
Part Three SIR VIDIA'S SHADOW
11. The Householder 219 12. My Friend's Friend 236 13. Death Is the Motif 250 14. Tainted Vegetables 264 15. "It's Major" 280
Part Four REVERSALS
16. Poetry of Departures 297 17. A Wedding Is a Happy Funeral 307 18. Literature Is for the Wounded and the Damaged 321 19. Exchanges 337 20. Sir Vidia's Shadow 352
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