|Living on the Edge
|Living on the Edge: Paul Theroux (page 6)|
|Peace Corps Connection
In 1994 RPCV Ron Arias (Peru 196364) went to Hawaii to interview Theroux for People magazine. Theroux had just published a novel, Millroy the Magician, and that was how Ron was able to convince People that Theroux was a suitable subject for the magazine. Ron, who had recently spent time in Australia and had taken up sea kayaking, really wanted to talk to Theroux about his travel book, The Happy Isles of Oceania, Therouxs account of traveling through the South Pacific in a sea kayak. These kayaks are sleek folding boats that can be put into the water anywhere, in the waters of Hawaii, where Theroux lives half the year, or back near his second home in Barnstable, Massachusetts.
When I began to travel with my kayak, my life changed, Theroux told Arias. I learned what all kayakers find out you head for the offshore island, and often when you get there you see another, more distant island, invisible from the mainland shore. And so you are led onward, self-contained and self-reliant and utterly uplifted.
The two men went searching for a humpback whale, a half-mile off shore, in the ink-blue Kauais coastal waters. What impressed Ron was Therouxs complete lack of fear, how he would approach a blowhole when other kayakers backed off.
I want to know things, he explained, especially if people say theyre dangerous or off-limits. How else do you discover whats new and interesting?
Afterwards, Theroux invited Ron back to his house, saying that this was something that he couldnt do with other reporters, but Ron, after all, was an RPCV.
The End of Leprosy
|I Am Paul Theroux
Those who write, Theroux has declared, are disturbed, dysfunctional, cranky, incomplete, not housebroken. Why else would I write the kinds of things I write if I were a nice normal person?
At times, however, he can be nice and normal. He is working with travel writer Tom Miller to publish a book of remembrances of RPCV writer Moritz Thomsen. And lately he has even been saying nice things about RPCV books, just to help out fellow Peace Corps writers. When I write to him, I know Ill get a postcard, quickly scribbled and virtually unreadable. I need to enlarge it in the photocopier to decipher the few sentences of support, encouragement, and occasionally praise.
| When I last saw him in New York, it was after the publication of The Pillars of Hercules and he was doing a reading at a small upper East Side bookstore. It was a hot night, hot as one of those Mediterranean islands he had just written about, and when I arrived he was backed against a pillar by a very thin, very nervous female publicist from Putnam, his publisher. He was surprisingly relaxed and chatty in his presentation, and read only a short section, took questions from the crowd of 50 or so, and told some travel stories. He linked his many journeys together, making it seem that all this travel formed an orderly career and was not just done for random assignments that carried him away to far-off places.
Theroux finished talking about travel and the Mediterranean and his book, and accepted the polite East Side applause. Then there were copies of the book to be signed. Before he left, I introduced myself to him again and we talked briefly, but he was anxious to leave.
When he was gone, I wished I had made more of the exchange, or had asked him to lunch. I recalled Ron Ariass account of being with Theroux in Hawaii and meeting a middle-aged hitchhiker who said he had just beaten up his best friend. Theroux, says Ron, immediately began to interrogate the man, hungry always for anything dangerous, off-limits, at the edge. I should have spoken up.
But the moment was gone. Id write him, I told myself, and get yet another illegible postcard from Hawaii. Or somewhere.
Africa Shaped Him
John Coyne (Ethiopia 196264)