Friday, March 25, 2011

Ghost Train to the Eastern Star, by Paul Theroux

It doesn't happen much anymore that I can't put down a book. Maybe I've picked up too many of them.

But Ghost Train to the Eastern Star, written as a 25-years-later sequel to Theroux's breakthrough memoir The Great Railway Bazaar, returned me to that once-common pleasure. Ghost Train gives us all the gifts of travel: surprise, time to think, escape, bewilderment, novelty—and Theroux unwraps those gifts with broadminded, no-nonense optimism.

As far as it was possible, he retraces the trip he took as a much younger man. This time around, his thoughts on India, Burma, Thailand, Singapore, Vietnam, and Japan are especially compelling. (I haven't read the first book.)

Wherever Theroux finds himself, both the continuity and the changes he records—within and without—remind us of this world's ongoing riches and unrelenting pain. I finished the journey sighing with wanderlust.

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