Paul Theroux’s new novel takes on life’s crashing waves

Wave on wave
By Paul Theroux

“The matter of books seemed particularly irrelevant here,” Paul throux In his latest novel “Wave Under the Wave” he writes. “What was the point of mentioning these inert objects while facing the fickleness of the moonlit sea on the beach, and now and then with the wave an outbreak of blackness started and crusted in white; These palms, this light breeze and the peanuts – it was all beyond the books. Those who did not have this beauty in their lives, found some strangely indoor comforts in the books. “

Such are the adaptations of the ghostly Hawaiian surfer Joe Sharkey, who is the protagonist of this book. But of course it is Theroux himself, who is riding a verbal wave, leaping between high-toned “light air and peanuts” and monstrous “squirrels”. Sharkey also doesn’t understand Lingo to use a lifelong girlfriend, “words he can’t spell and something he can barely pronounce: ‘falling,'” distortion of polymorphism, “” rising “and ‘Indivisibility. ” ‘What have you done now?’ She says… would it be called Irritation. “Chick”

Even his producers speak over poor Sharkey’s head. “It was as if he was carving his name in the water while surfing,” Theroux tells us. Sharkey, a fading local celebrity on the northern coast of Oahu, probably doesn’t know Keats’s self-composed, self-pitying epitaph – “the one here whose name was written in water” – but we do, right? And if we remember it for the first time, it comes again, 100 or so pages: “Sharkey came out every day … swinging in the face of a wave, as if carving his signature on it.” Huh, writing on water. “

[ Read an exerpt from “Under the Wave at Waimea.” ]

Houseman’s “An athlete to dyeing young“Adequately ironies more than a lad” To drive the sons away / From the regions where glory is no more. “Novelists, however, get more mileage than supernatural jocks – Updike’s Rabbit Engstrom, Malmud’s Roy Hobbs, Philip Roth’s Sved Levov, Leonard Gardner’s Billy Tilly – who, like Sharky, don’t share the oppression of their creators Such heroes are, of course, particularly appealing to male writers; Theroux suggests why in A. 1983 essay To seek the cries of pain, “essentially right-wing, purist, cowardice, deranged and fear-seeking women on a large scale”. It is definitely altruistic as well. There is no book hater like a Little League coach. … For many years I had the impossible to admit to myself that I wanted to be a writer… because being a writer was incompatible with being a man. “

But the bibliophobic protagonist of this novel is not merely an idiot’s revenge on Lunkheads, who was chosen for the starting lineup. As a failed high school student, Sharkey already knew his calling, which he treats like Theroux, was impossible to accept: “To say, ‘I’m going to be a big-wave surfer’ Was already saying something. ‘I am going to write a book.’ The fictional Paul Theroux in Mother Land “(2017) or” My Second Life “(1996). They are three authors; Shirky is loud No A writer that it kicks off the game.

When it comes to living an unfamiliar life, it will also give surfing slacker Tolstoy’s Ivan Ilitch a run for his money. “It’s been a good day,” Theroux writes in the book. “He looked at the whale and inked an inkling of his long ghastly call from under the water. He had seen a green sea turtle. A monster wave had surfaced on the Waimea. They bought and searched for the Ehi Steak. It was a bright sunset Drink beer in the light. … He spent many days like this. He expected more. “Days like these, however, are more enriching than the experience to listen to, and Sharkey’s current, much younger girlfriend, Olive looks bored. “You’re a 62-year-old man,” she tells him. “You are selfish, parochialist and ungrateful. You’ve spent your entire life in the bloody hell you want. … you’ve got every advantage and you’re still a liar – and for your information, this is someone who hates people. “

Olive lives with him in part because he’s “too self-absorbed … to be near her,” and in part because he’s still a stud – or, as Theroux would have it, “his body in delirium. Phosphorescents were lit by desire. ” But mostly he is there because the Sharkies are too passive to move themselves. At the beginning of the novel, he fights and kills “a drunk homeless man” who rides a bicycle; Olive cures his heartless self-absorption by learning who it really was. Wait – didn’t he consider self-absorption one of Sharkey’s selling points? Oh well

Theroux has the 28th novel under “Wave at the Vemia” – he has also written 21 nonfiction and collections of travel books and seven stories – so he doesn’t need anyone to tell his business. But didn’t she notice that after Part 1 (in which Sharkey stabbed the homeless man and went into a foul while Olive has a shock of her own) the book loses both tension and forward momentum? Part 2 traces back to Sharkey’s childhood and earlier life for 177 episodic pages, apparently why he only cares about surfing; We were ready to take his vacancy as a given, assuming he was injured and would get on with the story.

Part 3 finally returns to the current plot, which Sharik and Olive have to examine the documents and talk to the people. It will not inform that they were able to know the name of the homeless man and his The story behind – and that Gumshoi Kama somehow fixes our protagonist’s callousness: “‘Yes, I know him now,'” Sharkey said in a tearful tone. ‘I feel so sad that he is gone.’

Much of the novel’s energy does not come from Sharky or from the improperly paced Olive, but Theroux’s alter ego changes his ego: real-life writer Hunter S. Thompson, whom Theroux knew personally, and who gets his name here as the star’s turn. . Theroux has grieved for his portrayal of real people in his imagination, from his ex-wife to Queen Elizabeth II – but how could it discredit Thompson for merely drinking, sabotaging and showing coke? The fictional Thompson proposes that he and Shirky teach a course together, on the dubious premise that “writing is surfing, surfing is writing.” Sharkey may not know much, but he knows that there are talking substances.

Hunter’s achievement, he realizes, “will be missed for the last time – no ride on the water, leaving no traces, seen on the coast by some, but indestructible books, a legacy. Sharkey was dazzled by the idea of ​​a book . For the non-author, a book was a powerful fetish item, something magical, its creation a mystery. … Still, Sharkey was not provoked to read. “

While “Wave Under the Wave” has its implications, the moment feels just right. We can accept Shirky’s transformation into a kinder human – you see this stuff all the time in fantasy – but in a reader? An old supporter like Theroux knows that a suspension of unwilling disbelief has its limits.

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