Paul Theroux
Lecture Date: 3-29-1999
Click the link below to listen ot his celebrity's lecture:
Interview: Introductions for writer Paul Theroux are made by Dean Wendy Wilkins and Professor Patrick O'Donnell. O'Donnell discusses the wanderings of Paul Theroux across concepts and continents in order to create "difference" in his writing. Theroux commences his lecture by discussing the oddness of being a stranger when one is traveling. He explains the connection between being a stranger and being a writer. He was an outsider and a traveler even before he became a writer. This separation from the world actually turned him into a writer. He learned about the world from being unconnected. Many great writers, such as Henry James, admit to great loneliness and isolation in their lives, which actually added to their greatness. New technology connecting everyone is not good for literature, Theroux believes, because it doesn't offer the opportunity to feel like a stranger or to truly experience a different culture. Theroux discusses the parts of the world which are still isolated from the communication revolution and inaccessible to the modern world. He sees this separation as a wonderful thing, because if you are a stranger in these places you can immerse yourself in that culture without connection to the outside world. Theroux expounds on the concept of being a foreigner in either a country or a situation and how it forces adaptation. Despite these separations among cultures, there are beliefs that unite all humanity. It is a common conception or an underlying belief in many cultures that strangers among them are ghosts, or at least as beings that are less than human. The more contact these cultures have with outsiders the less naive they become about foreigners. When questioned by the audience, Theroux discusses subjects such as his experience in theatre and screenwriting, the situation in Yugoslavia, the spread of information and fads, writing as a form of exploitation of self, and his plans for the future.
Biography: Paul Theroux is known for a wide spectrum of publications, encompassing novels, children’s books, and magazine contributions. He is most widely noted for his collection of travel books, including Riding the Iron Rooster (1988), The Great Railway Bazaar (1975), and The Old Patagonian Express (1979). Well-traveled himself, Theroux has spent time in the Peace Corps as a teacher in Malawi, a lecturer in Uganda, a teacher at the University of Singapore, and a writer in England, finally having settled in the United States again, while dividing his time between Hawaii and Cape Cod. His first novel, Waldo, was published in 1967. Two of his novels, The Mosquito Coast (1981) and Dr. Slaughter (1984) have both been made into successful films. Apart from novel writing, Theroux is the guest editor of The Best American Travel Writing, a frequent contributor to magazines such as Talk and Men’s Journal, and works as a professional beekeeper.