My Other Lifeby Paul Theroux
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In the Washington Post Book World, Sven Birkerts called this exuberant novel "a complex and gripping work of invention and confession . . . I understood again how the prose of a true writer can bring us to a world beyond." The book spans almost thirty years in the life of a fictional "Paul Theroux," who moves through young bachelorhood in Africa, in and out of marriage, affairs, and employment, and between continents. It's a wry, worldly, erotic, and deeply moving account of one man's first half century - "among the strongest things Theroux has ever written" (New York Times Book Review).
It's an episodic recounting of particulars we know to be similar to the facts of Theroux's life: Peace Corps service in Africa, teaching in Singapore, longtime residence in London, and continuing critical and popular literary success. The contents are decidedly mixed. For example, a reminiscence of "Paulie's" eccentric Uncle Hal introduces us to a fly-by-night character too much like a male Auntie Mame to be either real or convincingly fictional; one chapter would seem to be an outtake from the author's British Isles travel book The Kingdom by the Sea (1983); and a farcical recurrence of coitus interruptus scenes appears designed to correct impressions created by Theroux's My Secret History (1989), a novel generally taken to be a confessional erotic autobiography. But there are several splendid chapters, including a keenly self-mocking account of "Paul Theroux's" tenure as an English teacher in a "leper village" in Malawi; descriptions of strained relations with a "rapacious" English socialite who collects and exploits young writers and with an older, enigmatic German writer; and amusingly delineated encounters with Anthony Burgess ("I never knew any writer who worked harder or was more generous"), and with Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip at a memorable London dinner party. If Theroux reaches no satisfactory conclusion about this passion for travel and impulse toward the condition of exile, he nevertheless writes lucidly about the process of writingits unaccountable stops and starts, the unpredictable forms inspiration takesand writing's influence on personality.
Not one of its author's best books, but frequent infusions of wit and inventiveness rescue it from becoming (what it might otherwise have been) the Cliff's Notes version of the life and career of Paul Theroux.
"among the strongest things Theroux has ever written" The New York Times
"Theroux's best and most entertaining book to date . . a seriously funny novel" Time Magazine
- Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
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Meet the Author
PAUL THEROUX is the author of many highly acclaimed books. His novels include The Lower River and The Mosquito Coast, and his renowned travel books include Ghost Train to the Eastern Star and Dark Star Safari. He lives in Hawaii and Cape Cod.
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