cover image Figures in a Landscape: People and Places

Figures in a Landscape: People and Places

Paul Theroux. HMH/Dolan, $28 (400p) ISBN 978-0-544-87030-7

Novelist and travel writer Theroux (Mother Land) is at the top of his game with his third collection of essays, a magisterial grouping of intimate remembrances, globe-trotting adventures, and incisive literary critiques. The 30 essays are culled from national publications and book introductions over a 15-year period, melding vivid narratives with shaded renderings of Theroux’s inner life. The deeply personal “Dear Old Dad: Memories of My Father,” reminisces about a loving yet remote parent who never read any of his son’s work. “My Life as a Reader” explores Theroux’s love affair with reading as a bookish child, and, later, as a teacher in Africa. “Trespassing in Africa” is his frightening tale of sex and recklessness during a booze-driven bender one Christmas in Zambia. His travels take him to Asia, Africa, Hawaii (now his home), and Morocco. Paul Bowles Michael Jackson, Oliver Sacks, Muriel Spark, Elizabeth Taylor, and Robin Williams are profiled, as well as a dominatrix whose vulnerability comes through amid the salacious details of her work in “Nurse Wolf, the Hurter.” A highly versatile, appealing writer, Theroux casts a wide net with pleasing and entertaining results. (May)