Friday, June 20, 2008

Theroux hits the rails again

On August 18, every red-blooded American who has ever thrilled to the song of flanged wheel on steel rail has a grand treat in store:

Paul Theroux' new travel narrative Ghost Train to the Eastern Star (Houghton Mifflin, $28), in which he retraces the 28,000 mile trip from Europe to Siberia that he took for his classic The Great Railway Bazaar of 1978.

I've started reading an advance review copy and (although I swore I'd never review a book again) will be posting a full notice come publication day. Until then I will say no more except to quote the opening paragraph:

"You think of travelers as bold, but our guilty secret is that travel is one of the laziest ways on earth of passing the time. Travel is not merely the business of being bone-idle, but also an elaborate bumming evasion, allowing us to call attention to ourselves with our conspicuous absence while we intrude on other people's privacy -- being actively offensive as fugitive freeloaders. The traveler is the greediest kind of romantic voyeur, and in some well-hidden part of the traveler's personality is an unpickable knot of vanity, presumption, and mythomania bordering on the pathological. This is why a traveler's worst nightmare is not the secret police or witch doctors or malaria, but rather the prospect of meeting another traveler."


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