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Paul Theroux quotes (showing 1-30 of 218)

“Fiction gives us a second chance that life denies us.”
Paul Theroux
“Travel is glamorous only in retrospect.”
Paul Theroux
“Tourists don't know where they've been, travelers don't know where they're going.”
Paul Theroux
“The wish to travel seems to me characteristically human: the desire to move, to satisfy your curiosity or ease your fears, to change the circumstances of your life, to be a stranger, to make a friend, to experience an exotic landscape, to risk the unknown..”
Paul Theroux, The Tao of Travel: Enlightenments from Lives on the Road
“You go away for a long time and return a different person - you never come all the way back.”
Paul Theroux, Dark Star Safari: Overland from Cairo to Cape Town
“I think most serious and omnivorous readers are alike- intense in their dedication to the word, quiet-minded, but relieved and eagerly talkative when they meet other readers and kindred spirits.”
Paul Theroux, Ghost Train to the Eastern Star
“Cooking requires confident guesswork and improvisation-- experimentation and substitution, dealing with failure and uncertainty in a creative way”
Paul Theroux, Sir Vidia's Shadow: A Friendship Across Five Continents
“Reading alters the appearance of a book. Once it has been read, it never looks the same again, and people leave their individual imprint on a book they have read. Once of the pleasures of reading is seeing this alteration on the pages, and the way, by reading it, you have made the book yours.”
Paul Theroux, The Old Patagonian Express: By Train Through the Americas
“I cannot make my days longer, so I strive to make them better.”
Paul Theroux
“The measure of civilized behavior is compassion.”
Paul Theroux, Dark Star Safari: Overland from Cairo to Cape Town
“Most travel, and certainly the rewarding kind, involves depending on the kindness of strangers, putting yourself into the hands of people you don't know and trusting them with your life.”
Paul Theroux, Ghost Train to the Eastern Star
“travel [is] flight and pursuit in equal parts.”
Paul Theroux, The Great Railway Bazaar
“..luxury is the enemy of observation, a costly indulgence that induces such a good feeling that you notice nothing. Luxury spoils and infantilizes you and prevents you from knowing the world. That is its purpose, the reason why luxury cruises and great hotels are full of fatheads who, when they express an opinion, seem as though they are from another planet. It was also my experience that one of the worst aspects of travelling with wealthy people, apart from the fact that the rich never listen, is that they constantly groused about the high cost of living – indeed, the rich usually complained of being poor.”
Paul Theroux, Ghost Train to the Eastern Star
“You go away for a long time and return a different person - you never come all the way back”
Paul Theroux, Dark Star Safari: Overland from Cairo to Cape Town
“The wish to disappear sends many travelers away. If you are thoroughly sick of being kept waiting at home or at work, travel is perfect: let other people wait for a change. Travel is a sort of revenge for having been put on hold, or having to leave messages on answering machines, not knowing your party's extension, being kept waiting all your working life - the homebound writer's irritants. But also being kept waiting is the human conditon.”
Paul Theroux, Dark Star Safari: Overland from Cairo to Cape Town
“He regarded himself as an accomplished writer — a clear sign of madness in anyone.”
Paul Theroux
“...a society without jaywalkers might indicate a society without artists.”
Paul Theroux, The Great Railway Bazaar
“Connection" is the triumphal cry these days. Connection has made people arrogant, impatient, hasty, and presumptuous. ...I don't doubt that instant communication has been good for business, even for the publishing business, but it has done nothing for literature, and might even have harmed it. In many ways connection has been disastrous. We have confused information (of which there is too much) with ideas (of which there are too few). I found out much more about the world and myself by being unconnected.”
Paul Theroux
“All travel is circular. I had been jerked through Asia, making a parabola on one of the planet's hemispheres. After all, the grand tour is just the inspired man's way of heading home. ”
Paul Theroux, The Great Railway Bazaar
“You define a good flight by negatives: you didn’t get hijacked, you didn’t crash, you didn’t throw up, you weren’t late, you weren’t nauseated by the food. So you are grateful.”
Paul Theroux, The Old Patagonian Express: By Train Through the Americas
“Ever since childhood, when I lived within earshot of the Boston and Maine, I have seldom heard a train go by and not wished I was on it.”
Paul Theroux
“I added that it was no fun to grow old, but that the compensation for it was that time turned your mental shit-detector into a highly calibrated instrument.”
Paul Theroux, Dark Star Safari: Overland from Cairo to Cape Town
“Delay and dirt are the realities of the most rewarding travel.”
Paul Theroux, Ghost Train to the Eastern Star
“Tourists don't know where they've been, travelers don't know where they're going. Travel is glamorous only in retrospect.”
Paul Theroux
“Notice how many of the Olympic athletes effusively thanked their mothers for their success? “She drove me to my practice at four in the morning,” etc. Writing is not figure skating or skiing. Your mother will not make you a writer. My advice to any young person who wants to write is: leave home.”
Paul Theroux
“But: all journeys were return journeys. The farther one traveled, the nakeder one got, until, towards the end, ceasing to be animated by any scene, one was most oneself, a man in a bed surrounded by empty bottles. The man who says, "I've got a wife and kids" is far from home; at home he speaks of Japan. But he does not know - how could he? - that the scenes changing in the train window from Victoria Station to Tokyo Central are nothing compared to the change in himself; and travel writing, which cannot but be droll at the outset, moves from journalism to fiction, arriving promptly as the Kodama Echo at autobiography. From there any further travel makes a beeline to confession, the embarrassed monologue in a deserted bazaar. The anonymous hotel room in a strange city...”
Paul Theroux, The Great Railway Bazaar
“Anything is possible on a train: a great meal, a binge, a visit from card players, an intrigue, a good night's sleep, and strangers' monologues framed like Russian short stories.”
Paul Theroux, The Great Railway Bazaar
“In countries where all the crooked politicians wear pin-striped suits, the best people are bare-assed.”
Paul Theroux
“The trains [in a country] contain the essential paraphernalia of the culture: Thai trains have the shower jar with the glazed dragon on its side, Ceylonese ones the car reserved for Buddhist monks, Indian ones a vegetarian kitchen and six classes, Iranian ones prayer mats, Malaysian ones a noodle stall, Vietnamese ones bulletproof glass on the locomotive, and on every carriage of a Russian train there is a samovar. The railway bazaar with its gadgets and passengers represented the society so completely that to board it was to be challenged by the national character. At times it was like a leisurely seminar, but I also felt on some occasions that it was like being jailed and then assaulted by the monstrously typical. ”
Paul Theroux, The Great Railway Bazaar
“You think of travellers as bold, but our guilty secret is that travel is one of the laziest ways on earth of passing the time.”
Paul Theroux, Ghost Train to the Eastern Star

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