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Old 04-20-2010, 08:06 PM   #16
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Originally Posted by ChrisC333 View Post

I'd like Paul Theroux more if he could lose the snobby attitude and get over his apparent self-dislike. Still, he's made a career out of trying to run away from himself and writing somewhat gloomy accounts of the journeys, so I guess it works for him.

Wow! There's a review for you. I totally disagree, in fact, I think Dark Star Safari is a must read book for everyone. I don't get any snobbish message, nor a self-dislike, more of an acceptance of his own humanity and non-self-importance while seeing the world through memory and actuality. But that's what's so great about books, no?
I agree with you that diversity of opinion is great.

In fact that's where my accusation of "snobbery" came from - not from reading his books, but from his blanket dismissal (in the linked article) of anybody who doesn't share his idea of what reading should be. For example he refers to the "philistinism" rampant in American cities. In my view, calling people philistines because they don't share your tastes is about as definitively snobby as it comes. He seems to think that his "literary" attitude is the only one that counts and all else is trash. He describes reading fiction as something that is done only by a very small minority, which just isn't true. Thrillers and whodunnits are fiction, romances are fiction, so are comics - they just don't happen to be the sort of fiction written by those that he mentions in his literary name dropping in the interview.

The "self-dislike" idea is also taken straight from his own words in some of his books. The interviewer in the linked article says directly to Theroux that his writing is well known for "for its misanthropic view of the world". So I'm hardly alone in thinking that he has a gloomy side, and that he sometimes plays on his own self doubts, disappointments with own performance, etc. It's not at all uncommon in the world of writing, or comedy for that matter.

So when I said "I'd like Paul Theroux more if...." I mean exactly that. I don't mean I hate the guy, just that there are some parts of the package that I'm not that keen on. My guess is that he really wants to be thought of as a big deal 'literary name' (like the ones he drops) and it bugs him that a lot of people (if they know him at all) bracket him as 'Travel Writer', which doesn't quite have the same ring about it.

I admire his writing enough to have bought four of his books, and to still fondly quote some of his passages and anecdotes. But that underlying "misanthropic view of the world" was enough to make me stop at that. I mostly prefer my reading a bit more upbeat these days.


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