Thursday, March 6, 2008

Paul Theroux

I caught the end of a Brian Lamb interview with Paul Theroux about his book Dark Star Safari, an account of Theroux’s journey down the east coast of Africa, from Egypt to South Africa. Theroux is an uneven writer, but his best work, like The Mosquito Coast and My Secret History, is excellent. And as Lamb pointed out, he has spent more time learning about the rest of the world than nearly any other contemporary American writer. (More than any I can readily think of, aside from the half-crazed William Vollmann.)
It’s a little startling to think that Theroux, with his well tailored suits and mid-Atlantic accent (he lived in England for years), was traveling through Africa in the backs of trucks a couple of years ago, when he turned sixty. Lamb asked him how he felt about growing older, and he said “What age means to me is that it's a fraud, that age means nothing.” So long as you’re healthy, I suppose he’s right. As someone once said, “How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you were?”

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