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Diary

Michael Dibdin: Ulster Questions, 21 April 1988

... never enjoyed a good press (although Joyce, oddly, claimed to like it). As hardened a traveller as Paul Theroux emerged wild-eyed and spluttering: ‘I knew at once that Belfast was an awful city ... demented and sick ... a hated city ... one of the nastiest cities in the world ... the old horror ... a city of drunks, of lurkers, of late-risers ... the ...

Diary

C.K. Stead: Truth and autobiographies, 27 April 2000

... of truth and accuracy in autobiographical writing while I was reading Sir Vidia’s Shadow, Paul Theroux’s book about his 30-year friendship with V.S. Naipaul.2 I don’t think my reaction was unusual. Parts of the negative picture of Naipaul were convincing, but there are obvious inventions and contrivances, especially in the dialogue – in ...

The Caregivers’ Disease

Paul Farmer, 21 May 2015

... soon out of print. In his introduction to an edition published in 1981 as Too Late to Turn Back, Paul Theroux describes her as ‘modest and a bit self-mocking’. At one point she recounts her attempts to tell a rural Liberian schoolteacher about her home town: ‘The London I had described of crowds, and hurrying motor vehicles, noise and underground ...

Shakespeare the Novelist

John Sutherland, 28 September 1989

The Vision of Elena Silves 
by Nicholas Shakespeare.
Collins, 263 pp., £11.95, September 1989, 0 00 271031 5
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Billy Bathgate 
by E.L. Doctorow.
Macmillan, £11.95, September 1989, 0 333 51376 2
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Buffalo Afternoon 
by Susan Fromberg Schaeffer.
Hamish Hamilton, 535 pp., £12.95, August 1989, 0 241 12634 7
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The Message to the Planet 
by Iris Murdoch.
Chatto, 563 pp., £13.95, October 1989, 0 7011 3479 8
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... Senderista cult. One might have expected Shakespeare to draw on the examples of Conrad, Greene or Paul Theroux for his fantasia on violence and evil at the headwaters of the Amazonian jungle. Instead he borrows the fluid, elliptic techniques of Latin Americans such as Fuentes, Marquez and – above all – Llosa. The Vision of Elena Silves seems in one ...

‘I’m English,’ I said

Christopher Tayler: Colin Thubron, 14 July 2011

To a Mountain in Tibet 
by Colin Thubron.
Chatto, 227 pp., £16.99, February 2011, 978 0 7011 8379 0
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... from the 1980s, when he found a larger readership during the travel-writing boom associated with Paul Theroux and Bruce Chatwin. One reason for the improvement is that the journeys he made – through Brezhnev’s USSR for Among the Russians (1983) and Deng Xiaoping’s China for Behind the Wall (1987) – weren’t so easily romanticised: depressed by ...

The African University

Mahmood Mamdani, 19 July 2018

... from Achebe on ‘English and the African Writer’, through Terence Ranger on Roger Casement, to Paul Theroux on Tarzan, a send-up of expatriate attitudes and an early example of cultural studies in Africa.Shortly after Kwame Nkrumah was deposed in Ghana in 1966, Mazrui published ‘Nkrumah: The Leninist Czar’, which he followed up with a piece ...

Trips

Graham Coster, 26 July 1990

In Xanadu: A Quest 
by William Dalrymple.
Collins, 314 pp., £14.95, July 1989, 0 00 217948 2
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The Gunpowder Gardens 
by Jason Goodwin.
Chatto, 230 pp., £14.95, March 1990, 0 7011 3620 0
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Silk Roads: The Asian Adventures of André and Clara Malraux 
by Axel Madsen.
Tauris, 299 pp., £14.95, April 1990, 1 85043 209 0
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At Home and Abroad 
by V.S. Pritchett.
Chatto, 332 pp., £14.95, February 1990, 0 7011 3620 0
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Great Plains 
by Ian Frazier.
Faber, 290 pp., £14.99, March 1990, 0 571 14260 5
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... I did not particularly like travel books,’ explains the rancorous writer-narrator in Paul Theroux’s recent novel My Secret History: ‘the form had fatal insufficiencies. It was usually geography, and potted history, and a kind of lifeless boasting about how far the writer had gone and what he ate.’ It’s a scattershot complaint, but well made all the same ...

Cervantics

Robin Chapman, 18 September 1986

Don Quixote 
by E.C. Riley.
Allen and Unwin, 224 pp., £18, February 1986, 0 04 800009 4
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Don Quixote – which was a dream 
by Kathy Acker.
Paladin, 207 pp., £2.95, April 1986, 0 586 08554 8
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... trade without regard for their critical reception. I did, however, take the precaution of inviting Paul Theroux and Fay Weldon to read mine, and, if they wished, to give me a quotation for the cover. Both agreed, and their comments were extremely helpful in persuading booksellers that here was a book they might risk having on their shelves. Robin ...

Good enough for Jesus

Charlotte Brewer, 25 January 1990

The State of the Language: 1990 Edition 
edited by Christopher Ricks and Leonard Michaels.
Faber, 531 pp., £17.50, January 1990, 9780571141821
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Clichés and Coinages 
by Walter Redfern.
Blackwell, 305 pp., £17.50, October 1989, 0 631 15691 7
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Rhetoric: The Wit of Persuasion 
by Walter Nash.
Blackwell, 241 pp., £25, October 1989, 0 631 16754 4
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... the dictionary’s “usage panel”, (including Alistair Cooke, Jessica Mitford, Margaret Atwood, Paul Theroux, Fay Weldon, Harold Bloom, Susan Sontag, Jeane Kirkpatrick, Isaac Asimov, Carl Sagan, Dwight Bolinger, Elizabeth Traugott and many more). What is revealing is how the panel’s response to certain types of usage has changed between 1969, the ...

If I Turn and Run

Iain Sinclair: In Hoxton, 1 June 2000

45 
by Bill Drummond.
Little, Brown, 361 pp., £12.99, March 2000, 0 316 85385 2
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Crucify Me Again 
by Mark Manning.
Codex, 190 pp., £8.95, May 2000, 0 18 995814 6
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... Wisdom (1996). That trip, trashing the conventions of the genre, is more Hunter S. Thompson than Paul Theroux. Manning’s Crucify Me Again is a hysterical deconstruction of his days as a star and self-proclaimed ‘sex god’; he let rips with the mania that Drummond is so careful to control. Manning is very good, in a methadone and wormwood way, at ...

Attempts to Escape the Logic of Capitalism

Slavoj Žižek: Václav Havel, 28 October 1999

Václav Havel: A Political Tragedy in Six Acts 
by John Keane.
Bloomsbury, 532 pp., £25, September 1999, 0 7475 4458 1
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... advocate of full market liberalism who dismisses any talk of solidarity and community. In 1974, Paul Theroux visited Vietnam, after the peace agreement and the withdrawal of the US Army, but before the Communist takeover. He writes about it in The Great Railway Bazaar. A couple of hundred US soldiers were still there – deserters, officially and ...

In the Potato Patch

Jenny Turner: Penelope Fitzgerald, 19 December 2013

Penelope Fitzgerald: A Life 
by Hermione Lee.
Chatto, 508 pp., £25, November 2013, 978 0 7011 8495 7
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... the shortlist, with Naipaul’s A Bend in the River the clear frontrunner. Julian Barnes remembers Paul Theroux, who was judging, saying he would ‘skim out into the pampas’ the candidates he considered non-starters; back from Patagonia, there he sat at the Booker dinner, ‘a polite smile on his face’. ‘I couldn’t help enjoying the ...

Closed Windows

T.H. Barrett, 11 January 1990

The Question of Hu 
by Jonathan Spence.
Faber, 187 pp., £12.99, September 1989, 0 571 14118 8
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... affecting our curiosity about Robert Maxwell, as well as our taste for the works of Thubron or Theroux. But today, when jumbo jets deposit increasing numbers of ordinary people in the middle of totally unfamiliar cultures which are now only a few flying hours away, it may be time to start reflecting on a very different type of tale. John Hu, the Hu in ...

Don’t abandon me

Colm Tóibín: Borges and the Maids, 11 May 2006

Borges: A Life 
by Edwin Williamson.
Penguin, 416 pp., £9.99, August 2005, 0 14 024657 6
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... offered the inspiration for ‘Pierre Menard’ than his father’s vain request. The book was Paul Valéry’s Introduction à la poétique. Williamson writes: ‘The same text, according to Borges, could mean different things to different readers in different periods, and he quoted a line from a poem by Cervantes to show that a reader in the 20th century ...

Kinks and Convolutions

James Lasdun: GOD HATES YOUR FEELINGS, 20 February 2020

Unfollow: A Journey from Hatred to Hope, Leaving the Westboro Baptist Church 
by Megan Phelps-Roper.
Riverrun, 289 pp., £14.99, October 2019, 978 1 78747 800 8
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... submissive decline of Shirley Phelps-Roper is painful to read about. (In a TV interview with Louis Theroux, made after Megan and her sister Grace defected, she gives an impression of ravaged bewilderment that is all the more pitiful for her seeming inability to relent or fault the church in any way.)After neutralising her, Drain proceeded to replace the ...

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