Elderism #24

November 16th, 2008

In 1975, Paul Theroux made a name for himself with The Great Railway Bazaar, an account of his train trip from London to Tokyo and back. 30 years later, Theroux–“no less inquisitive, but considerably goutier,” as Toby Lichtig puts it the Times of London–re-took the trip and has published his account, Ghost Train to the Eastern Star.

Though Theroux has taken some heat for the new book’s narcissism and occasionally patronizing tone, most agree that the work is not without its juicy bits, like when Theroux describes walking on Bangalore’s crowded streets as

“a monotony of frotteurism.

Turkmenistan, where beards, ballet, and gold teeth have been banned, beckons Theroux with its

“emptiness of lizards and a landscape like cat litter.”

At one point, he states that,

“a country’s pornography offers the quickest insight into the culture and inner life of a nation,”

so he takes a tour of Tokyo’s sex industry with novelist Haruki Murakami, who tells him that  Truman Capote slept with literary badass Yukio Mishima, an event unmentioned in Capote biographies.

By book’s end, Theroux–who’s 67–seems to suggest that still-inquisitive-but-much-goutier has its benefits:

“Most of the world is worsening, shrinking to a ball of desolation. Only the old can really see how gracelessly the world is aging and all that we have lost.”

Age, Theroux writes, gives you

“the gift to evaluate decay.”

(New Statesman)