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  • Mark Dion: The Science of Art
    “Misadventures of a 21st-Century Naturalist” isn’t comprehensive, but it offers a good overview of Mark Dion’s art. Viewers get an introduction to his primary method: gathering objects—whether on a self-conducted excavation or through the more...
  • The Rural Vision of Ravilious & Friends
    There is a palpable mood of nostalgia in England at present. This may have been expressed politically in Brexit, but it is also visible in the popular taste for “heritage” and lost worlds. In particular, Britain is awash with books and films about...
  • Democracy and the Machinations of Mind Control
    In both the US and the UK, investigations into the deployment of these shadowy forces are still in progress. In close contests, every influence counts. There is, therefore, an understandable temptation to emphasize that without secretive...
  • Modigliani: Fevered Life, Pure Line
    These sensual images, with curving shoulders, breasts, and thighs outlined in black, with clever references to both old masters and contemporary styles, were a bald commercial venture. But these nudes overcome the cynical appeal to a male gaze....
  • The Man from Red Vienna
    What a splendid era this was going to be, with one remaining superpower spreading capitalism and liberal democracy around the world. Instead, democracy and capitalism seem increasingly incompatible. Global capitalism has escaped the bounds of the...
  • Out of Control
    Mary Shelley’s original three-volume novel Frankenstein was published quietly and anonymously in 1818 to little acclaim. The Quarterly Review stonily observed: “Our taste and our judgment alike revolt at this kind of writing.... The...
  • Militants & Military: Pakistan’s Unholy Alliance
    Admitting extremist Islamists into the electoral process—groups that have not reconciled with the state and do not subscribe to the constitution or to democracy itself—will pave the way for an even more deadly cycle of violence. If a small fringe...
  • Bulldozing the Peace Process in Israel
    When Netanyahu claims, as he did recently, that Israel’s situation has never been better, he means, in part, that in his own mind he has smashed the Palestinian national movement once and for all. I have no doubt that this has been his goal all...
  • Rome on the Hudson
    The apparently hedonistic culture that emerged before World War I was a muddle of flagrant gestures toward personal liberation and subtle new forms of social coercion. Early-twentieth-century American society was on the verge of a reshuffling of...

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  • Tomato Cain and Other Stories, by Nigel Kneale (1949)

    Nigel Kneale is best known now for his novels and screenplays featuring the alien-battling scientist, Dr. Quartermass, but his first book, the collection Tomato Cain and Other Stories was considered remarkable enough to merit a foreword by Elizabeth Bowen: Within the last few years, readers have become less shy of the short story. That this... Read more

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  • Selected Modern Short Stories, edited by Alan Steele (1937)

    Selected Modern Short Stories–the first of several collections that editor Alan Steele compiled for Penguin in the late 1930s–offers a good illustration of the random nature of literary fate. Let’s take at look at the authors listed on the cover: • John Hampson Hampson’s first-published novel, Saturday Night at the Greyhound (1931) was a surprise... Read more

    The post ...

  • The Door in the Wall, by Oliver La Farge (1966)

    I picked out a yellow-jacketed copy of Oliver La Farge’s posthumous collection of short stories, The Door in the Wall, from a striking display in the window of Any Amount of Books, one of the few remaining used bookstores on Charing Cross Road, when in London recently. I’ve never learned just why so many British... Read more

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  • Private Opinion: A Commonplace-Book, by Alan Pryce-Jones (1936)

    There isn’t necessarily a template for a commonplace book, which Webster’s defines as “a book of memorabilia” and Wikipedia as “essentially a scrapbook.” But even if there were one, Alan Pryce-Jones’ Private Opinion wouldn’t follow it. Pryce-Jones, who is probably best known for editing the Time Literary Supplement from 1948 to 1959, was a precocious... Read more

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  • Rope Dancer, by M. J. Fitzgerald (1986)

    Many of the stories in M. J. Fitzgerald’s collection, Rope Dancer, read like unsettling dreams: vivid enough to provoke deep feelings but too full of bizarre, illogical transitions and events to be part of waking life. In “Mystery Story,” a woman finds herself returned, again and again, to the compartment of a passenger train, where... Read more

    The post ...

  • Croatian Tales of Long Ago, by Ivana Brlić-Mažuranić (1922)

    One day late, but in keeping with the spirit of Halloween, which reminds us each year of the didactic benefits of scaring the crap out of kids, I want to celebrate a fine example of fairy tales told with the gloves off. As Bruno Bettelheim (perhaps somewhat plagiaristically) reminded us, uniformly pleasant and positive stories... Read more

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  • “In Sleep,” by Robert Kotlowitz (1954)

    In Sleep What do I see in my sleep? A steady seepage of life in dreams that are of no use to a practical body. I awake like you, sapped by a watchful reality, defined by a soft-boiled egg. Today’s newspaper tucked under my arm, swats invisible enemies on the fleeing subway. Time, then, is... Read more

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  • The Smoking Mountain, by Kay Boyle (1951; 1963)

    In 1948, the American writer Kay Boyle left France, where she had spent most of the previous 25 years to live in Germany. Germany was then an occupied country, split between the Soviets, French, British, and Americans into four zones of military administration. Whether she was making amends for sitting out France’s own time of... Read more

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  • Discovery, a Paperback Magazine (1953-1955)

    During my annual pilgrimage to the Montana Valley Book Store, I decided to dig around in the anthologies section, a section I’ve always avoided before. I’ll admit to a bias for original sources over compilations, and I’ve rarely found a good reason to overcome it. But it was hot outside and cool in the basement... Read more

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  • Selected Stories, by Martin Armstrong (1951)

    In his dictionary, Samuel Johnson defined craftsman as “”An artificer; a manufacturer; a mechanick.” When the first OED was published 150 years later, craftsman was still associated with assembly rather than creation: “A man who practices a handicraft; an artificer, artisan.” And even today, to refer to a writer as a craftsman is to assign... Read more

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0618134247Dark Star Safari: Overland From Cairo To Cape Town by Paul Theroux. Boston. 2003. Houghton Mifflin. 472 pages. Jacket photograph by Raymond Depardon/Magnum Photos, Inc. 0618134247. March 2003.

Paul Theroux is a national treasure. Publishers should be offering him huge advances, although I know that they don’t. I would take a trip with him just about anywhere, and what I mean by taking a trip with him is that I would read anything he chooses to write. His travel books are particularly interesting. Theroux understands that travel is struggle, inconvenience, boredom, and hardship, the essential elements of ‘adventure’. Don't pick up any of his travel books if you want to read about local cuisines, ruins, and churches. But if you are up for an adventure with a companion who truly engages creatively with his surroundings and likes to reflect on what he is reading while he is traveling, then Paul Theroux is for you. Consider the opening sentence from DARK STAR SAFARI - ‘All news out of Africa is bad. It made me want to go there, though not for the horror, the hot spots, the massacre-and-earthquake stories you read in the newspaper; I wanted the pleasure of being in Africa again. ’ Theroux often avoids doing it the easy way. His observations on the questionable value of paternalistic foreign aid are particularly interesting, and his picture of Africa, while as personal as one can get, feels true on a universal level at the same time. Once again, a thought-provoking and truly enjoyable book from Paul Theroux.

FROM THE PUBLISHER -

 Widely acclaimed as one of the world’s best travel writers, Paul Theroux takes us on the ultimate journey through the world’s most complex and mysterious continent. In the travel-writing tradition that made Paul Theroux’s reputation, DARK STAR SAFARI is a rich and insightful book whose itinerary is Africa, from Cairo to Cape Town: down the Nile, through Sudan and Ethiopia, to Kenya, Uganda, and ultimately to the tip of South Africa. Going by train, dugout canoe, ‘chicken bus,’ and cattle truck, Theroux passes through some of the most beautiful - and often life-threatening - landscapes on earth. This is travel as discovery and also, in part, a sentimental journey. Almost forty years ago, Theroux first went to Africa as a teacher in the Malawi bush. Now he stops at his old school, sees former students, revisits his African friends. He finds astonishing, devastating changes wherever he goes. ‘Africa is materially more decrepit than it was when I first knew it,’ he writes, ‘hungrier, poorer, less educated, more pessimistic, more corrupt, and you can’t tell the politicians from the witch doctors. Not that Africa is one place. It is an assortment of motley republics and seedy chiefdoms. I got sick, I got stranded, but I was never bored. In fact, my trip was a delight and a revelation. ’ Seeing firsthand what is happening across Africa, Theroux is as obsessively curious and wittily observant as always, and his readers will find themselves on an epic and enlightening journey. DARK STAR SAFARI is one of his bravest and best books.

Theroux Paul 

Born: April 10, 1941

PAUL THEROUX is the internationally acclaimed author of such travel books as THE GREAT RAILWAY BAZAAR, THE OLD PATAGONIAN EXPRESS, SUNRISE WITH SEAMONSTERS, and THE KINGDOM BY THE SEA. His many novels include HOTEL HONOLULU, KOWLOON TONG, MY OTHER LIFE, and MILLROY THE MAGICIAN. His novels SAINT JACK, THE MOSQUITO COAST, and HALF MOON STREET have been made into successful feature films. Theroux resides in Hawaii and on Cape Cod.

 

 

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