Paul Theroux: Part 2
17 April 2012
Just a bit more about Paul Theroux's Kingdom By the Sea, which I really enjoyed.
As I was saying yesterday, I think I have finally aged into an appreciation for Theroux's writing and mix of observational travel writing with his own quietly (very) opinionated take on the people and places around him. In this book, an account of his travels around Great Britain's copious island coastline, he shares many small stories that very admirably get at the tone of people's encounters with one another. (He also didn't make me laugh out loud as much as Bill Bryson does, but I enjoyed something about his surprisingly gentle humor all the same) I really enjoyed this exchange, about a gentleman who was really just trying to give his newspaper to his bus driver:
"The bus driver said, 'That's a Tory paper.'
'I'm through with it,' Mr. Lurley said.
Dan, the bus driver, said, 'I don't want it.'
'Why not?' Mr. Lurley said.
'They're all the same,' Mr. Lurley said, and left it on the little shelf under the windshield with Dan's lunch bag (two cheese and chutney sandwiches, a small over-ripe tomato, and a Club Biscuit).
Dan picked up the newspaper and threw it out the bus door.
'They're not the bloody same,' he said. 'That's a Tory paper.'" (p. 94).
I really enjoyed that. This book was written in 1983, and a large part of its narrative is Theroux's observations of Brits' observations about the early days of the 1982 Falklands War. I don't know much about that period in history, but I found it interesting all the same.
And, in case you're wondering, Theroux does a good job with the standard travel writing attribute of describing one's surroundings with flair. I am not often enamored with landscape descriptions (I tend to skip right over them, as a matter of fact), but this type of writing seemed worth reading:
"Ever since Tenby I had noticed an alteration in the light, a softness and a clarity that came from a higher sky. It must have been the Atlantic--certainly I had the impression of an ocean of light, and it was not the harsh daytime sun of the tropics or the usual grayness of the industrialized temperate zone; daylight in England often lay dustily overhead like a shroud. The cool light in West Wales came steadily from every direction except from the sun." (p. 162.)
It was a good read. I'm going to try one of his non-British titles again and see what I think of it.