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Paradise Hardcover – Deckle Edge, June 7, 2001
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McMurtry, a veteran of long car trips along the back roads of the American desert, boards a cruise ship this time around, and not without some foreboding; wandering among the Marquesas with a motley complement of international "island junkies" with whom he finds little in common, this most bookish of writers finds himself running short of reading matter, forced to slow down to the tedious pace of long-distance sea travel, and not entirely content at the turn of events. McMurtry doesn't complain: instead, he passes the time remarking on the national and personal idiosyncrasies of his fellow passengers, mostly in good humor, and reflecting on closeted family skeletons, feelings of marginality and loneliness, mortality, and other matters while observing the passing scene.
A departure in many ways, Paradise finds McMurtry in a contemplative mood. "Nowhere else," he writes, "have I felt so far," and not only geographically. There's enough local color, enough dank glens, misty mountains, and sun-dazzled beaches to satisfy armchair travel buffs, but this is a quiet, thoughtful voyage that reveals that true paradise lies close to the heart. --Gregory McNamee
From Publishers Weekly
Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
Top Customer Reviews
He visits Tahiti and the Marquesa Islands in the few days before his mother dies (which seems like strange timing, since her passing was expected), and sees the area as paradise in a sad way. Obviously affected by his mother's failing health, he pretty much sticks to himself and reads books. Occasionally, he makes an observation about how beautiful tropical islands mainly vary by the extent to which "civilized" amenities have been plunked down in them. He ruminates about why people who lived there fought with one another, or became cannibals. But he doesn't really take the thinking anywhere. He is struck by the fact that the ocean surrounding a South Sea island isolates its inhabitants much like the desert does around Southwestern Indian pueblos. That's about the level of insight here. A high point is when a Polynesian woman gives him some passion fruit as an unexpected gift.
Like in Walter Benjamin at the Dairy Queen, he reflects on his parents' marriage. But he doesn't reflect on it very much. Most of that ground is covered in the earlier book.
I only kept reading the book because Mr. McMurtry is normally a fine writer, and often has interesting observations. My reward for doing so was to find out about the logistics of visiting the Marquesas, which I have been thinking about visiting. I graded the book at two for its value as a travelogue. Otherwise, I would have graded it as a one.
Some people might characterize this book as an essay on the subject of paradise. It certainly has ruminations along those lines, especially about Gauguin. But the content isn't organized as an essay.Read more ›
It is necessary to mention "Walter Benjamin" and "Roads" before getting to "Paradise". While not strictly an autobiography, "Walter Benjamin" explains something of McMurtry's upbringing, his younger days, his middle-age, and includes some family history (particularly his paternal grandparents and his father). Some of the book recalls portions of his 1968 work "In A Narrow Grave: Essays On Texas" (which contains one of the best pieces ever written about family: "Take My Saddle From The Wall: A Valediction"). "Roads" contains an abundance of opinions and reminiscings from McMurtry's life, and is combined with his 1999 thoughts as he uses America's great interstate highways to traverse the country as the great rivers were once used.
The autobiographical portion of "Paradise" includes the relationship between McMurtry's parents from their marriage in 1934 up through the death of his father (in 1977), and then onward with his mother. Intertwined with this is an early-2000 vacation to Tahiti which focuses on a cargo-cruise tour of the Marquesas Islands. The sly thing about this slight book (it is a quick read) is that one is reading a first-class travel book without even realizing it. As a bonus, the reader gets some interesting views of his fellow travelers (American, French, Belgian, German, and others), as well as some commentary on the Polynesians (past and present).
Once again, the novelist McMurtry succeeds in writing some great essay/non-fiction.
My other problem with the book is that I began to lose patience with McMurtry as passive observer. I wanted him to jump ship, like Melville, and really experience life in the Marquesas, rather than simply record his fleeting impressions. Well, maybe a good work of fiction will come out of his working vacation--Some Can Hula, or maybe All My Friends Are Going To Be Dinner.
All this said, I still enjoyed the book and read it straight through. McMurtry's fine mind and refreshingly non-academic erudition make everything he writes worth reading. But I do not think Paradise is on par with his other recent works of nonfiction, Walter Benjamin at the Dairy Queen, and Roads.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Personal opinion for the rating. I am now, and have always been, a fan of Larry McMurtry's work. Good job!Published on May 2, 2014 by Jack Williams
I love mcmurtry's style of writing, and though this book departs from his western and u.s. Tomes, it is a very good read - though short.Published on January 26, 2014 by Mike Coffman
Terribly boring, self indulgent, stretched what should have been a travel brochure about the islands into a novel. Read morePublished on April 7, 2013 by susan medellin
This latest book of McMurtry's is different.
He contrasts the marriage and hardscrabble life of his parents in the harsh sunlight of west Texas, against life in the lush... Read more
After reading Paradise, Perfect by Judith McNaught is a must read. Both are excellent feel good stories. Judith McNaught is an excellent writer. Enjoy!!!Published on October 14, 2012 by C. Puinno
As I have mentioned before, with a couple of exceptions, I tend to prefer McMurtry's non-fiction over his fiction. Read morePublished on April 26, 2009 by Robert Tucker
This was bought as a present for a friend. However, I have enjoyed all the novels I have read by McMurtry, especially Lonsome Dove. Read morePublished on December 16, 2008 by Ann Fenner
The book tries to place a finger on what love (or search for paradise or an undefined ache) means. The author/narrator is visiting Marquesa (Paradise on earth, as felt by a variety... Read morePublished on July 26, 2008 by Prasad K. Subramani