Isabel's Reviews > The Old Patagonian Express: By Train Through the Americas

The Old Patagonian Express by Paul Theroux
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Jan 27, 2015

did not like it
bookshelves: bad-books, book-at-wall
Read from April 08 to 22, 2012

I hate not finishing books, but this might be one of those I cannot finish. Or perhaps I'll finish it just to cement my bad opinion of it.

I first read Dark Star Safari by Paul Theroux and must add that this was several years ago - I absolutely adored it at the time. I thought I would like this one just as much, and have been dying to buy it for a long time now. The author walks you through every place he travels, leaving you with a good sense of orientation and geography of the place he's travelled, at least that was the case with Dark Star Safari and so far it has been the case with this book too. That's really nice (no sarcasm intended)

But the rest of the book is not as enjoyable. I've rarely read a book by someone who is SO unbelievably arrogant and full of himself. And he also quite clearly makes comparisons with himself and other people and blatantly points out just how much more interesting and better he is. Such as at the very beginning of the book, talking about how the train was full of people going to work and he was going on a much longer and more interesting journey. Well, I'm so sorry Mr Theroux, that there are so many boring people out there who can't, in their middle ages, afford to just pack up all their things and leave behind their life and their responsibilities to go backpacking through the world, like an 18 year old high school graduate. That's exactly how I see him.

Well and also, he is probably one of those very people I hate talking to. One of those people who dump themselves beside you on a train and try and strike up conversation with you, when all you want is some peace and quiet. Then when they lure you into a conversation, they ask you all sorts of questions about yourself, who you are and where you're headed, then, because they have all the time in the world to waste and nothing better or more productive to do, they start asking you about your opinions on philosophy and politics and religion and more, (all those sensitive topics - my grandmother always says there are two things you cannot talk to people about and that's religion and politics, and she was a teacher too) to just walk away without having any input of their own, to judge you and feel good about themselves. That's not discussing. That's just being judgmental and a bloody smartarse.

Above all I get the feeling he thinks he's so much better than everyone else. And also, I think for someone his age to be bumming around in seedy hotels and bars and meandering through countries is rather...perhaps immature? Or is he just going through a midlife crises? You'd think someone his age would have a stable job, monthly payments and far more productive things to do than to sit on disgusting old trains, torture himself with a dirty and ragged journey, and get into conversations with random strangers.

Oh yes another word I thought of for him was "opinionated". And I hate people like that.

Wonderful writing style, although very negative, almost depressing, but that can be good in itself sometimes, and also a fantastic range of vocabulary but my goodness is he an arrogant, stuck-up and self-important snob. I would hate to meet him.

I might just re-read Dark Star Safari now, perhaps I've matured enough now to notice that's not such a good book anymore either. Oh but what do I know? Acccording to Paul Theroux, it's practically impossible for me to know much or be interesting at my age.

"[...]But i could not blame her for that: it is hard for anyone to be interesting at twenty." - page 19 when he first strikes up a conversation with Wendy.

Well thanks, Paul, I'm 22. But you know, I think you're just as boring as any odd backpacking teenager at best, because you seem to have no life of your own and no decent ideas to write up for a book either so you have to hop on crappy trains and take a grubby journey through South America and sit on trains all day and stare at every single person on it and take notes about them just so you can then publish a book about it. Yeah, that's what I call a really interesting person.
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04/09 page 75
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