Lynn Barber for The Guardian: Self Dies

Paul Theroux, 19 February 2000:

. . .  he didn’t look remotely like the Paul Theroux I met 15 years ago at a dinner party in London. That Theroux was urbane and elegant — this one is wearing shorts and has a string of dolphins tattooed around his ankle. Oh, please! You cannot be a serious writer and have dolphins tattooed around your ankle — I am sorry, it would take too long to explain, but you just can’t.

She is hilarious. Self first made her acquaintance (via The Irish Times) at the Tyrone Guthrie Centre (or TGC), spring 2014. She was instantly smitten.

Then forgot about her. Until just now.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Theroux: “I drove off the main road, Highway 71 . . . “

The day was dusk-dark but there was still no sign of a storm. I drove off the main road, Highway 71, and took a dirt road up a steep slope into the woods, past shacks and trailers. At the summit, where the road became a muddy track, I came to a ramshackle house — a spectacular ruin at the edge of a field littered with cast-off shoes, rags of clothes, old rubber tires, hubcaps embedded in the earth, children’s faded toys twisted apart, plastic bags tangled on bushes, areas strewn with bottles and jugs, and shards of broken glass — a hovel with junk heaped against it.

Deep South, by Paul Theroux

Two days in Cork, one afternoon on the train to Dublin, morning in the Irish National Portrait Gallery, and the end of Theroux’s Deep South is in sight.

In the intervening time, she’s learned about: Faulkner. Erskine Caldwell. Gun shows.  Clinton’s boyhood. Poverty. Segregation. Dying Towns. Activists. Meth labs. etc.

She read the reviews on Amazon. One woman says she wishes Theroux had focused on the “nicer” parts of the south. Instead, he stayed on back roads, and focused on talking to poor people.

That is who self wants to hear from! The poor people! The ones who make some parts of the South resemble a Third World country! Because — that is reality.

Keep going, Theroux.

DSCN9841

Reading DEEP SOUTH in the National Portrait Gallery, Dublin

Earlier, she was in Hodges Figgis and bought yet another book to weigh her down: My Brilliant Friend, by Elena Ferrante.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Reading DEEP SOUTH on the Train To Cork

Self so admires how thorough Theroux (Onomatopeia! Unintentional!) is.

He cannot go to the ‘Deep South’ without visiting the Emmett Till house (and also the house of one of the men who murdered him). Self read the section on Till’s murder while sitting on the train to Cork.

Outside the train window, fields of unimaginable lushness. Tidy houses. Cows.

Between the pages of her book, a teen-ager is murdered because, in a mood of lighthearted adventurousness or impishness, he wolf-whistles at a white woman.

He’s with a group of relatives. They hustle him away immediately because they know, they know, that Till’s done something stupid and dangerous.

Of course, the murder, all its details. Ugh. While across from her sat a really nice gentleman who apologized every time he turned the page of his Irish Times and it intruded on self’s half of the table.

Stay tuned.

 

Things You Never Wanted to Know About the Ku Klux Klan

The presiding office is called the Exalted Cyclops (Say what?)

A local Klan is referred to as a Klavern.

Followers are called Klansmen.

Extremely young followers are called Ghouls or Knights.

They killed a young black man on March 21, 1981. Of the two perpetrators arrested, one got life in prison, the other death. The man sentenced to execution was kept in a prison referred to by inmates as “the slaughter house.” He died in an electric chair painted yellow, the so-called “Yellow Mama.”

Fascinating, simply fascinating. Paul Theroux is such an avid researcher.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

DEEP SOUTH Sentence of the Day

“And then there are the laziest and most presumptuous of people, those who can read but who don’t bother, who live in the smuggest ignorance and seem to me dangerous.”

— Paul Theroux, Deep South

Stay tuned.

Oh, Theroux

  • That was why, whenever I mentioned I was a writer, most people smiled in what I took to be pity, as though I had just disclosed a personal failing, but a lovable, forgivable fault. Because to nonreaders a book is a riddle and a challenge . . .

Deep South, by Paul Theroux

People don’t know what to say in answer to “I’m a writer,” they’re put in a spot which “baffles” them, it’s as if “a dinner guest among carnivores takes a seat at the table and says, By the way, I’m a vegan.”

ROFL!

BTW, if anyone cares to know, self is on p. 177, and the book is 441 pages in total, and so that makes self almost at the halfway mark.

Her concentration’s drifting. Oh no, oh no! Must find a way to re-focus. Otherwise, it’ll be another month before she finishes.

The next book on her reading list is the Anjelika Houston memoir, Watch Me.

Stay tuned.

Something About the Deep South

There is something about America’s Deep South that arouses melancholy in Paul Theroux, for which self can only say:

THANK GOD

Usually he is so caustic and cranky (which is fun too, don’t mistake self’s meaning), but here, for instance:

  • It was always assumed that I was merely drifting, and I suppose in a sense I was, but not “merely.”

Isn’t that so elegiac-sounding? So very dream-like, as if Theroux was losing himself in some esoteric landscape of the heart?

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

DEEP SOUTH: Eutaw

An encounter in Eutaw:

“You’re late,” the woman said. “Why are you late?”

And then she proceeds to give Theroux such a deep-freeze, icy reception and tongue-lashing that he ends up apologizing three times, and saying things like

  • I’m grateful to you for seeing me on such short notice.
  • I was distracted by: 1. Back roads. 2. Groves of trees. 3. Golden fields. 4. Cotton bursting open.
  • I’m only fifteen minutes late.

Paul Theroux, I would advise never returning to the town of Eutaw.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Quite A Sentence: DEEP SOUTH, Tuscaloosa

Are dear blog readers getting sick of the Theroux quotes? Well, too bad! Because even at his crankiest, Theroux has something to offer everyone!

Tuscaloosa is a cluttered urban island in a great, soft, rural sea: the misleadingly serene surfaces of the South — low hills, grassy swales, cotton and bean fields, swamps humming with flies, dejected woods.

Stay tuned.

More Theroux: DEEP SOUTH, Atomic Road

That is a great name for a country road. Especially one in the Deep South. Lucky for Paul Theroux, he found it. And was not deterred by a sentry outside a “big fence” who told him, in no uncertain terms, Get lost!

No, what the sentry actually told Theroux was, “Turn your car around, sir, and keep going.”

Same thing. There’s nothing more freezing sometimes than that oh-so-stoic American politeness.

And then Theroux writes:

. . .  in the South I traveled in eccentric circles, in and out of the fourth dimension, always hopeful, making plans to return, and saying to myself, as I did that day on Atomic Road: I’ll be back.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

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