The Pillars of Hercules

The Pillars of Hercules

A Grand Tour of the Mediterranean

Unknown - 1995
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"[THEROUX'S] WORK IS DISTINGUISHED BY A SPLENDID EYE FOR DETAIL AND THE TELLING GESTURE; a storyteller's sense of pacing and gift for granting closure to the most subtle progression of events; and the graceful use of language. . . . We are delighted, along with Theroux, by the politeness of the Turks, amazed by the mountainous highlands in Syria, touched by the gesture of an Albanian waitress who will not let him pay for his modest meal. . . . The Pillars of Hercules [is] engrossing and enlightening from start (a damning account of tourists annoying the apes of Gibraltar) to finish (an utterly captivating visit with Paul Bowles in Tangier, worth the price of the book all by itself)."
--Chicago Tribune
--The Boston Sunday Globe
"HIS PICARESQUE NARRATIVE IS STUDDED WITH SCENES THAT STICK IN THE MIND. He looks at strangers with a novelist's eye, and his portraits are pleasantly tinged with malice."
--The Washington Post Book World
"THEROUX AT HIS BEST . . . An armchair trip with Theroux is sometimes dark, but always a delight."
"AS SATISFYING AS A GLASS OF COOL WINE ON A DUSTY CALABRIAN AFTERNOON . . . With his effortless writing style, observant eye, and take-no-prisoners approach, Theroux is in top form chronicling this 18-month circuit of the Mediterranean."
--Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
Publisher: New York : G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1995.
ISBN: 9780399141089
Branch Call Number: 910.91822/THER
Characteristics: 509p. 24cm.


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Dec 30, 2018

An epic 500+ page book about Theroux's trip around the shores of the Mediterranean. Theroux is famous for "not looking away." He describes the bad with the good, and is amazingly zen about terrible food, filthy hotels, rude people, missed connections - all the things that go wrong on a trip. One of the soundbites I copied from this book: we all know that a vast proportion of travel is accumulated nuisance. I agree! Travelling is hard and often disheartening. Theroux rarely takes the easy way out, although he did do a luxurious leg of this journey on a very high-end ship, with a complimentary ticket, and loved it. But most often he's on crammed ferries and smoky buses and dirty trains, with hardly a complaint. In 1996 it seems as though everyone in the Mediterranean countries smoked constantly. I wonder if that's still the case. Anyway, Theroux is hilarious - one time he asks locals where he should go in a certain area, and they give him all kinds of ideas, including "But don't go to Sfax, there's nothing there." "So I bought a ticket to Sfax," he says. He documents an unbelievable amount of filth and garbage and poverty around the Mediterranean, and lands up in a few war zones as well, including Israel. He's pretty well unflappable but once in a while he hauls off and lets somebody have it, especially if he sees they're hurting a person or an animal, or if they've really taken advantage of him. He claims not to be that interested in historical monuments but writes about them anyway, and has a huge background of literary history to draw on for the writing of this book. He looks up some fellow authors on the trip too and these turn out to be some of the more interesting passages. I found the whole book fascinating. The only thing that slightly annoyed me was that he's SO negative about tourists, and kept insisting he wasn't one, but rather a traveler, a writer, or a curious person just nosing around. The distinction didn't make a lot of sense to me. He seems so tolerant of so many differences, but then so scornful of this pathetic creature called a tourist. It's just a small thing - he's a genius writer.

Feb 12, 2018

Very enjoyable travelogue.


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