Top positive review
23 people found this helpful
Where are the Readers for this Classic?
on April 1, 2007
As of today, April 1, 2007, this book is ranked over 100,000 at Amazon. Where are the readers? This is, so far, the best book I've read all year. Today is April 1, but I'm not joking.
I read this book in one day, on a trip from Boston to Fairbanks, Alaska. This gave me the opportunity to literally take the book in as a whole. According to Theroux in the prologue, he covers four main sources of journalistic weirdness: sexual, racial, religious, and narcissistic. He interviews the types of poeple that most would consider "weird." But for Theroux, the host of a popular British TV show, his motivation is different than the typical Jerry Springer variety. The interviewees and their entourage take a back stage to the way Theroux interacts with everyone and everything. Sometimes we detect empathy. Somethines we detect mild scorn. Always, Theroux humanizes his subjects while he exposes them. The methods are always subtle.
Theroux's writing style is clean, crisp, using the right adjective or adverb when necessary. His quotes really bring his interviewees to life: Theroux is not afraid to keep local dialects or cultural or socio-economic related slang. The prose is polished.
This is an excellent work of journalism, matching the quality of Gay Talese, Michael Lewis, or Malcolm Gladwell. It's too bad that this book isn't noticed more in the U.S. This book is as much a work of journalism as it is a work of psychology or sociology. There is work in them thar pages -- despite the crude subject matter, this is no fly-by-night piece of hack writing. Theroux asks the correct questions. He mixes a sophisticated sense or ironic humor with brief interludes of philosophic discourse, always reporting the facts without letting his personal opinions get in the way. (He does give his opinions, but they do not bias the text.) He commands a sophisticated vocabulary, maintaining a mature, elegant prose. His self-effacing writing style is fair to the reader.
The most important conclusion of this book is taken from Theroux's Epilogue: "'Have you ever argued with a member of the Flat Earth Society?' a self-help guru named Ross Jeffries once asked me. 'It's completely futile, because fundamentally they don't care if something is true or false. To them, the measure of truth is how important it makes them feel. If telling the truth makes them feel important, then it's true. If telling the truth makes them feel ashamed and small, then it's false.' My experience on my trip has borne this out. On the list of qualities necessary to humans trying to make out way through life, truth scores fairly low...in the end, feeling alive is more important than telling the truth....We are instruments for feeling, faith, energy, emotion, significance, belief, but not really truth."
This last pragraph, my fellow readers, sums up Theroux's great book.