Just finished Paul Theroux’s latest, BLINDING LIGHT, which I loved. Aside from the fact that Theroux is a fine writer, the book hit all my personal pleasure points (although really: travel, drugs, writing, sex, what’s not to like?) Theroux is known mostly for his travel narratives (and his novel THE MOSQUITO COAST, made into the Harrison Ford movie) but I came to him through SIR VIDIA’S SHADOW, the book he wrote about his friendship with the writer V.S. Naipaul, and he’s been one of my favourite writers ever since. HOTEL HONOLULU and DARK STAR SAFARI: FROM CAIRO TO CAPETOWN put him on my list of instant hardcover buys: as soon as I see a new release with his name on it, I carry it over to the cash register. The deal is done. I don’t even need to read the jacket copy. The man can write — BLINDING LIGHT is filled with paragraphs I had to go back and reread for the naked pleasure of it — and the man can tell a story. (Writing well and telling a good story are not necessarily one and the same, especially when one tends to get you put in Literary and the other in Popular Fiction. If you’re a literary writer who suddenly comes out with a ripping good yarn, chances are that some people will accuse you of selling out; if you’re a storyteller who pays deep attention to language, theme and character, people will announce that you have Transcended whatever Genre you happen to find yourself in).
While I was surfing for this piece Theroux wrote about the ‘drug tour’ that helped inspire BLINDING LIGHT, I also came across this interview from Theroux’s adopted home state of Hawaii that touches on another reason why I enjoy the man: “…his politically incorrect assessments of people and places are, frankly, refreshing.”