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3.9 out of 5
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  • Ah mo tell ya'll a story

    Paul Theroux has spent some five decades traveling around and writing about the world, often alternating between novels (e.g. The Mosquito Coast) and travel literature (e.g. The Happy Isles of Oceania). However, the only time he’s written about traveling in America, to my knowledge, was in the first part of The Old Patagonian Express (1979), where he chugs from Boston to the Mexican border on his way to Central and South America. In 2012-3, properly ensconced as the godfather of travel writing (debatably the best; undeniably the most prolific), Theroux explores the southern United States, aspects of which he finds nearly as exotic and bizarre as features of India or Africa. To start, we get a rationale and something of a literature review: summaries of American travel narratives, with praise, and a criticism of what Theroux calls the mock ordeal. Writers often groan about the agonies of traveling in the USA, even on excellent highways and in first-world conditions, so the narrator indicates he’ll be skipping his imagined tribulation to examine the lives of everyday people. The author wants to talk to the “submerged twenty percent,” folks obscured by the smallness of their southern towns, while exploring topics he finds intriguing: racism, poverty, inequality, gun culture, slavery, college football, religion, violence, identity, hospitality, and so on. Theroux’s a keen ethnographer, and perhaps because he’s in an English-speaking country – his own – he does something he often doesn’t do in his other travelogues: he lets plenty of people speak, so we get a spectrum of views on a wide range of topics; plus snippets of history, Paul’s trademark flare for description and humour, and references to everything from psychology to anthropology – all rendered in an erudite, yet breezy and accessible style. Indeed, the writing is beautiful: crisp and fresh albeit seemingly pre-existing, as if the writer has discovered these stories etched into panels of marble and just dusted away the grit and debris so we can see what was hiding underneath. And the book does what it’s supposed to: takes you along for the ride. I’ve read ten of Paul Theroux’s travel books, and would rate Deep South as among his best. Troy Parfitt is the author of War Torn: Adventures in the Brave New Canada

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    8 person found this review helpful

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  • Deep South

    Very educational, sad statement on successive American governments in ignoring the needs of so many communities .

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    2 person found this review helpful

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  • Padded

    Well written as usual, though a fair amount of filler material not essential to the story included. Left with the feeling that this may be his last book.

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    1 person found this review helpful

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  • Good, But Sad

    I have read almost all Theroux's travel books and still have many in actual book form that I re-read. The Great Railway Bazaar has never failed to delight me. But this one - my goodness - this one! I was hard pressed to give 4 stars, because I could not finish the book. The writing is sharp as always, Theroux is grumpy and crusty but insightful and thoughtful as always. The further south and the further off the beaten track, peoples lives are constrained by poverty, racism, unjust government, and the never ending fear that someone may kill you just for existing. There are wonderful people portrayed, but the despair of ever have a just society just seems so out of reach in these pages. So I don't know, I couldn't see hope in it, but maybe a better person than I will see a new America in these pages.

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