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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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  • Deep South

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

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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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