Paul Theroux's New Book Tells Stories of the South
Well known novelist and travel writer Paul Theroux's new book "Deep South" dives into the complex landscape of the American South. With the aid of photographer Steve McCurry's lenses, Theroux takes readers on a journey to places like Alabama, Tennessee and South Carolina while unraveling the complexities of its history, people, and current state of affairs.
After going on wild and exotic adventures in distant places like Asia, Europe, Central and South America and Oceania the author looked into his own country for more stories to tell. "Deep South" is Theroux's 10th travel book, and here he takes readers on a four-season journey on a road trip around this part of the U.S.
In a review for the Huffington Post, Andy Brack notes that the book received mixed reactions from critics. He quotes a review in The Washington Post written by Jack Hitt, an American author born and raised in Charleston, S.C. who said that the book is filled with "observations worthy of a freshman sociology major" and that "superficial stereotypes pile up at once."
Brack then notes how the book is a "misinformed discovery." Almost unanimously, critics say that Theroux paints the picture of the American South as a place of destitution that is akin to the Third World, and that the focus of the book is mainly the negative aspects of the South.
To expand on his point, Brack mentions that Theroux talked at length about the poverty of Allendale County, one of the poorest areas in South Carolina, while deliberately excluding positive changes the area is going through, like how the Promise Zone is bringing together a stronger community.
However, Brack recognizes that Theroux did take note of a few positive things about the South, even if these observations were few. Brack writes, "Despite the book's narrowness, Theroux got a couple of things right. He found Southerners -- from gun nuts to the poor -- to be hospitable and kind. And he understood many poor areas are having a tough time economically because of how mechanization hurt family farms and how big American businesses shifted the only jobs left in rural areas to other counties."
In an earlier review, Geoffrey Ward of The New York Times points out Theroux's merit as a storyteller who is able to transport his reader into his faraway lands. He also praises Theroux's way with people. Ward says, "But in the end it's Theroux's remarkable gift for getting strangers to reveal themselves that makes going along for this ride worthwhile." The author's interviewees included working people who saw their jobs in small stores disappear in favor of bigger companies overtaking the area.
According to his official website, Paul Theroux was born in Massachusetts in 1951. One if his best known works is "The Great Railway Bazaar" published in 1975, which is now considered a classic of the travel writing genre.