Friday, August 13, 2010

Theroux on luxury

Although I have actually finished a very enjoyable book since my last post (Moonlight Mile, by Dennis Lehane) the fact that it's not only a galley but an uncorrected proof leads me to decide not to quote from it just yet (it's good, though!). Instead, I will revert to my brief posts from other books I'm wending my way through more slowly. Today, it is Paul Theroux's Ghost Train to the Eastern Star, in which he revisits a trip he made some 33 years earlier in The Great Railway Bazaar. I always like Theroux, though he is probably the most curmudgeonly author I've read that still manages to retain my affection. What's great about this book is not only that it's done in the inimitable Theroux style, but it allows him to reflect on half a lifetime of such escapades and their meanings. Here's a brief bit on finding himself riding the Orient-Express--not the  famous Orient-Express we'd expect, but another of the same name on a neighboring track. Of the first he says:

"It was not my train because, one, it was too expensive: it would cost me around $9,000, one way, from Paris to Istanbul. Reason two: Luxury is the enemy of observation, a costly indulgence that induces such a good feeling that you notice nothing. Luxury spoils and infantilizes you and prevents you from knowing the world. That is its purpose, the reason why luxury cruises and the great hotels are full of fatheads who, when they express an opinion, seems as though they are from another planet. It was also my experience that one of the worst aspects of traveling with wealthy people, apart from the fact that the rich never listen, is that they constantly groused about the high cost of living--indeed, the rich usually complained of being poor." 

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