“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, 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. Not much of an athlete or reader during his earlier years, he believed that writing was not masculine …money was masculine. But he also felt that the little reading and writing he did provided some consolation and order to his world.
Theroux feels that large families tend to produce writers: people who are clamoring for attention as well as solitude, and that people become writers to cover up their deficiencies or eccentricities. Growing up Catholic and a Boy Scout, he attended the University of Maine and not only refused to join the required R.O.T.C., but also wrote many anti-Vietnam war editorials. He later transferred to the University of Massachusetts where a creative writing course with Joseph Langland changed his opinion about the writing life.
At the University of Syracuse 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 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 future 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. Among his award winning titles are Picture Palace (1978) which won the Whitbread Award and The Mosquito Coast (1982) winner of the James Tait Black Award. The latter title and Half Moon Street were made into films. 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.
The Collected Stories
The Consul’s File
Half Moon Street: Two Short Novels
Hotel Honolulu (**)
The London Embassy
Millroy the Magician
The Mosquito Coast
My Other Life
My Secret History
The Stranger at the Palazzo d’Oro and Other Stories
Sir Vidia’s Shadow: A Friendship Across Five Continents
Fresh Air Fiend: [Travel Writings, 1985-2000] (** audio only)
To the Ends of the Earth: The Selected Travels of Paul Theroux
The Pillars of Hercules: A Grand Tour of the Mediterranean
The Kingdom by the Sea: A Journey Around Great Britain
The Great Railway Bazaar: By Train Through Asia (**)
Riding the Iron Rooster: By Train Through China
The Imperial Way
Dark Star Safari: Overland from Cairo to Cape Town (**,***)
The Old Patagonian Express: By Train Through the Americas
The Happy Isles of Oceania: Paddling the Pacific
** Also available as a cassette audiobook
*** Also available as a CD audiobook
LP Also available in Large Print
ER Electronic Resource