It is rare for me to be only pages - mere pages - into a book and scold myself for having missed out on such greatness for so long. How could I have missed Theroux's travel writing entirely? It would be one thing if I didn't obsess about books daily...but to be so focused on writing and reading and to have missed this entire oeuvre of Theroux is just...maddening. More worrisome: have others? The good news: I've discovered he writes more than novels, and boy does he ever. It is early going, but I suspect his work will lead me on a fascinating journey. In addition to the work itself, I've already had a few of those extra-lovely moments where connections to other writers/folks of interest are made - writers that have either been on my list for a long time or those who've only recently come to my attention but now seem to appear in everything I read (which I always interpret as a message from the book universe that I must follow the tail as it darts in and out of whatever I'm reading and see where it takes me).
The first hook-line-sinker passage for me:
"Out of touch in Africa was where I wanted to be. The wish to disappear sends many travelers away. If you are thoroughly sick of being kept waiting at home or at work, travel is perfect: let other people wait for a change. Travel is a sort of revenge for having been put on hold, having to leave messages on answering machines, not knowing your party's extension, being kept waiting all your working life - the homebound writer's irritants. Being kept waiting is the human condition.
I thought, Let other people explain where I am. I imagined the dialogue:
'When will Paul be back?'
'We don't know.'
'Where is he?'
'We're not sure.'
'Can we get in touch with him?'
Travel in the African bush can also be a sort of revenge on cellular phones and fax machines, on telephones and the daily paper, on the creepier aspects of globalization that allow anyone who chooses to get his insinuating hands on you. I desired to be unobtainable. Kurtz, sick as he is, attempts to escape from Marlow's riverboat, crawling on all fours like an animal, trying to flee into the jungle. I understood that.
I was going to Africa for the best reason - in a spirit of discovery; and for the prettiest - simply to disappear, to light out, with a suggestion of I dare you to try and find me."
--Paul Theroux, Dark Star Safari