Posted by Roger Boylan on Wednesday, January 12, 2011
You can read Paul Theroux's complete autobiography in this article from Smithsonian magazine, all four paragraphs of it. Theroux rejects the idea of writing a memoir, for reasons that seem to be a combination of ennui, reticence, and superstition. He reckons he's been autobiographical enough in his travel books, and quotes V. S.Pritchett to the effect that a writer writing about his own life is writing about himself writing, hence a total bore. What you need is the picaresque element, as in Cellini and Casanova (above), plenty of amorous entanglements, narrow escapes, and general ruffianry. I've given it a shot in a slim collections of reminiscences I've entitled Shoplifting at Dracula's, referring to the main activity among the customers at a vast, creaking second-hand bookshop in Edinburgh. Most of the account has appeared here and there in this blog. Whether it will ever appear elsewhere depends largely, I imagine, on how much of my other work I can get published. Like other self-stories, it tends to peter out when respectability sets in; no one wants to read about the responsibilities of marriage and finding a job. But my earlier capers, such as the one with Boris and Natasha in the Pere Lachaise Cemetery, or my fisticuffs with Protestant thugs in Northern Ireland, might tickle the fancy of the sedentary--and there you have the appeal of a memoir. It's all, essentially, about the voyage to faraway places.