cover image BLINDING LIGHT


Paul Theroux, . . Houghton Mifflin, $26 (438pp) ISBN 978-0-618-41886-2

Theroux's antihero, Slade Steadman, chronicled his renegade days of globetrotting without the aid of a passport in the bestselling Trespassing —20 years ago. Living luxuriously off royalties on Martha's Vineyard, he has been struggling to finish a second book ever since. Things change when he flies to Ecuador in quest of a potent performance-enhancing drug. He smuggles back to the U.S. a year's supply of the rare datura, which when ingested produces temporary blindness and a paradoxical "blinding light" that exposes truths about the world, truths he uses to complete his pompous, solipsistic Book of Revelation . The substance also luckily boosts his libido, for his relationship with tenacious obstetrician Ava has been on the rocks lately. Prolific Theroux (Dark Star Safari ; Hotel Honolulu ; etc.) oversaturates this novel with smutty, purplish passages describing cartoonish erotic encounters. The cheap sexual transgressions of a thinly veiled Bill Clinton character also take center stage as Theroux overworks a mirroring link between the fallible president and Steadman, who after the publication of his book continues to deceive his friends and the clamoring public by claiming to be truly blind. Theroux's language is typically vivid and lush when describing the Ecuadorian jungle. On the whole, however, his prose is repetitive, and Steadman is uncongenial, his fate after a year of substance abuse all too predictable. Agent, Andrew Wylie. Author tour. (June 1)