On Sunday my interview with prolific author Paul Theroux was published in the Honolulu Advertiser (we’d talked in September, but its run was delayed due to circumstances outside my control). I had to conduct the interview via email, which meant that the full interview was short and sweet, and able to be published in full. I’ve included it below anyway, for those who missed it>
What I’m Reading | Paul Theroux
Q&A with Christine Thomas
A. I just finished re-reading “Lady Chatterly’s Lover” by D H Lawrence and found it much more insightful about English manners, class distinctions and arty types than I had remembered. And of course there are the sexual descriptions. But it is essentially a love story. Much better than “Sons and Lovers.”
Q. How did you discover it?
A. I had been reading some of Lawrence’s travel books—about Italy and Mexico—and thought I would look at “Lady C.” again. I also read for the first time the Jeffrey Meyers biography of Lawrence, which is excellent. This is pretty much the way I read—not one book but, as in this case, three or four books by and about a great author. Then I move on to someone else who is brilliant. Life is too short to spend time reading the mediocrities that are promoted by “cultural studies” departments, with all their biases.
A. Lawrence is brilliant for the exactitude of his observation, his imaginative use of it, his truthfulness and his utter disregard for the formal niceties of fiction. By the way, Lawrence was also a tremendous reader.
Q. You’re also celebrated for such qualities, and your new book “Ghost Train to the Eastern Star: On the Tracks of the Great Railway Bazaar” is full of exacting observations with a healthy disregard for formal niceties. Does reading Lawrence hone these talents, or do you advance them in other ways?
A. This is a great question. I think I can only get pleasure from reading books that are brilliant, witty, well-observed, well written, and truthful. Pop fiction doesn’t interest me. Can you imagine Alan Wong eating junk food?