What do you think?
Rate this book
548 pages, Paperback
First published August 1, 1975
I thought it would be unlucky to lie: a whiff of paranoia had made me superstitious. I told the man where I had been, naming countries; I said that I had been taking notes & that when I got back to England, I would write a book about the trip and call it The Great Railway Bazaar. And I went further, saying that as soon as he was out of sight, I would write down what he said, and that "the people are real nice & the weather was real bad" & I would describe his moustache.Having ridden on quite a few of the same trains as Theroux & traveled by rail within many countries on six continents, I never seem to meet people who are anything but pleasant & interesting while en route, while Theroux seems so very often to be at odds with his fellow travelers. This tendency to seem misanthropic to the casual reader is indeed unfortunate but the author is a gifted commentator, at least for those who have the ability not to be distracted.
I was glad to be moving. It was the feeling that I had on the "Frontier Mail" & the "Direct Orient Express": the size, the great length of the train was a comfort. The longer the journey, the happier I was. The progress of the train did not interest me very much, as I preferred reading, eating in the dining car, sleeping after lunch & bringing my journal up to date in early evening & deciding where we were on the map. Train travel animated my imagination & usually gave me the solitude to order & write my thoughts: I traveled easily in 2 directions, along the level rails while Asia flashed changes at the window and at the interior rim of a private world of memory & language. I cannot imagine a luckier combination.If nothing else, Theroux takes us on board vicariously and the mention of books he is reading on various journeys, the names of some of the classic express trains & even the grungy locals stimulate us to follow in his path, even if we ultimately have very different experiences while en route and even if we never leave the comfort of our favorite lounge chair.