Read Alexander Theroux

“When people call up Rush Limbaugh and say, ‘It’s an honor to speak to you,’ I want to shoot myself.” – interview with Colin Marshall on The Marketplace of Ideas

“Her only loyalty seemed to be what she compiled in her witchy journal, her daybook listing the crimes of others against her, forgetting her own poisonous gossip that she always gave to the new man in her life of all the previous ones.” – Laura Warholic

I am currently indulging in Mr. Theroux’s evocative, witty, sometimes incredibly embittered prose. There are many varied books to choose from. Four novels: Three Wogs, Darconville’s Cat, An Adultery, and Laura Warholic. Monographs on the artists Edward Gorey and Al Capp. A book of poetry, a doctoral thesis on Samuel Beckett’s language (unfortunately not readily available), fables, as well as an upcoming book on Estonia. The two books on colors: The Primary Colors: Three Essays and The Secondary Colors: Three Essays, are compelling compendiums. This is how the 108-page mediation on the color orange begins:

Orange is a bold, forritsome color. It sells, it smiles, it sings, it simpers, combining the aura of Hollywood musicals, the leisure of sunshiny Florida–Moon Over Miami in Technicolor–and South American festivals. (1)

Forritsome–that is bold or impudent, from Scottish. These are dizzying assemblages with references from Chaucer and Wallace Stevens to Dumb and Dumber and a recipe for orange brandy sauce, juicy opinions on stars like Audrey Hepburn–“in The Nun’s Story she could make even repellent words like garlic and blackwater fever sound positively alluring,” and side-splitting attacks on mediocrity:

Rank stupidity, a kind of invincible ignorance, adhibits to the color. Bill Cosby, an opportunistic, face-pulling buffoon, in my opinion, not a comedian, maybe because of the shameless and incessant spate of commercials he does on TV, looks to me not black, but orange. So does NBC’s weatherman, fat, pop-eyes olio Willard Scott–beachball orange! Also drama junkie/diet cheerleader Richard Simmons, whose behavior is beyond the ramparts of German Expressionism. (41)

We need more outspokenness and Theroux delivers. Also check out his interview with Stephen Moore at the Dalkey website, as well as his Bookworm Interview and the interview on Marketplace of Ideas with Colin Marshall (excerpted above–here’s the transcript) which give the listener a full ear of his intelligence, his passionate search for meaning, as well as his push for people to get more out of life.

I have read excerpts of Laura Warholic (while on the subway, I sometimes laugh and laugh about her name) and am about to embark on Darconville’s Cat, I hope you will as well.

Also highly recommended is Marshall’s incredible essay at The Millions: Linguistic Revenge: An Alexander Theroux Primer

10 thoughts on “Read Alexander Theroux

  1. I’m about to re-read “Laura” and my PopMatters.com review of “Estonia” will be out I assume around the end of November when it’s released. I have written about all his fiction and essays on my blog and shorter reviews are up at Amazon US. Thanks for spreading the word about a great writer. Enjoy him.

    • Hi, Frank.

      Seems to me, from your comment here, that you must be a glutton for pummeling (I mean, why would you read all three of his novels if you thought they were “terrible”?) or perhaps you simply haven’t read the novels. Or perhaps your rather ill-formed comment is just the tip of what is actually a large floating mass of thought.

  2. They are terrible because they try too hard to impress. There is very little substance in them, with the exception of “An Adultery,” which I quite liked, though it, too, can be tedious. He’s a show-off writer who is so desperate to prove his vast vocabulary and literary knowledge. Such references actually detract from his work, do not add to it. He is not James Joyce, because he cannot create characters worth caring about like Stephen Dedalus or Leopold Bloom.

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