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Writing is pretty crummy on the nerves.
– Paul Theroux
A place that doesn’t welcome tourists, that’s really difficult and off the map, is a place I want to see.
Movable type seemed magical to the monks who were illuminating manuscripts and copying texts. Certainly e-books seem magical to me.
If you look at a map, you see that Hawaii is in the middle of nowhere. It’s 17 hours of straight flying from London. It’s very far away, and sometimes you feel as if you’re on another planet. But I like that. Also, that’s ideal for writing.
The idea of traveling in Africa for me is based on going by road or train or bus or whatever and crossing borders. You can’t travel easily or at all through some countries.
Tourists don’t know where they’ve been, travelers don’t know where they’re going.
You can’t write about a friend, you can only write about a former friend.
I wouldn’t say that I’m a travel novelist, but rather a novelist who travels – and who uses travel as a background for finding stories of places.
I hate vacations. I hate them. I have no fun on them. I get nothing done. People sit and relax, but I don’t want to relax. I want to see something.
The amount of hassle involved in travel can be overwhelming.
The more you write, the more you’re capable of writing.
I think there is only one way to write fiction – alone, in a room, without interruption or any distraction.
The job of the travel writer is to go far and wide, to make voluminous notes, to tell the truth.
The appeal of travel books is also the sense that you are different, an outsider, almost like the Robinson Crusoe or Christopher Columbus notion of being the first person in a new place.
I have spent my life on the road waking in a pleasant, or not so pleasant hotel, and setting off every morning after breakfast hoping to discover something new and repeatable, something worth writing about.
The moment that changed me for ever was the moment my first child was born. I was happy, filled with hope, and thought, ‘Now I understand the whole point of work, of life, of love.’
My greatest inspiration is memory.
Gain a modest reputation for being unreliable and you will never be asked to do a thing.
My earliest thought, long before I was in high school, was just to go away, get out of my house, get out of my city. I went to Medford High School, but even in grade school and junior high, I fantasized about leaving.
Maine out of season is unmistakably a great destination: hospitable, good-humored, plenty of elbow room, short days, dark nights of crackling ice crystals.
You can’t separate the people from the places – although I sometimes like traveling in places where there are no people.
I think people read travel books either because they intend to take that trip, or because they would never take that trip. In a sense, as a writer you are doing the travel for the reader.
My house is a place I have spent many years improving to the point where I have no desire to leave it.
My father had an invisible job outside of the house; I didn’t know what he did. But my kids were privy to the ups and downs of a writer’s life.
There are places that I’ve always wanted to go. First I went to Africa, and when I was there I realized there were places in Africa I really to wanted to visit: The Congo, West Africa, Mombassa. I wanted to see the deep, dark, outlandish places.
Japan, Germany, and India seem to me to have serious writers, readers, and book buyers, but the Netherlands has struck me as the most robust literary culture in the world.
To me, writing is a considered act. It’s something which is a great labor of thought and consideration.
I like the idea of isolation, I like the idea of solitude. You can be connected and have a phone and still be lonely.
Fiction gives us the second chances that life denies us.
Many small towns I know in Maine are as tight-knit and interdependent as those I associate with rural communities in India or China; with deep roots and old loyalties, skeptical of authority, they are proud and inflexibly territorial.