Riding the Iron Rooster - Paul Theroux 3 Things about Riding the Iron Rooster:

(1) land sakes, Paul Theroux does not like human beings! he seem like a very disdainful and contemptuous person in general. that disdain and contempt certainly includes the Chinese - which was an off-putting and distancing thing to experience when reading a travelogue concerning China. at times it really got to me and i found myself disdainful and contemptuous of the author in return. he began to drive me up the wall with - as another reviewer notes - his relentlessly consistent authorial voice. i'd have to remind myself that he also wrote The Mosquito Coast, which besides being my dad's favorite film (scary, that), is all about escaping from the dirty, disgusting world of conformist, unimaginative humans - and the terrible dangers that can arise from that sort of mentality. so it's not like Theroux doesn't have a good read on his own personality and his maybe-not-so-secret desires. and that's kind of admirable.

(2) i read this side-by-side with Mark Salzman's Iron and Silk. the contrast between the two was illuminating. on the one hand, Salzman seems like such a decent and sweet guy, someone i'd like to know. his book is very well-intentioned... and, sadly, sorta vapid. it has no teeth and no bite, just a soft babyish gumming of sorts. the writing is also basically uninteresting. on the other hand, Theroux, who is a person i have no interest in knowing, is all bite (and lots of bark too). he lets you know his thoughts and he is fearless when it comes to being percieved as a snotty asshole. he doesn't care and he writes it like he sees it. his writing may be bleak, but it is also very real. this is a man who looks at the ugly side of things and reports on it in prose that is often exceedingly impressive. but still rather ugly.

(3) apparently people who regularly sleep in (as i do) have homes that smell "feety". you know, like feet. huh. i did not realize this and i'm not sure if this is true. i think this is another example of Theroux being a dick regarding habits he disdains. oh, Paul.