Alexander Theroux and the Reader

Borrego desert, Theroux family, Black's Beach, Prince of Peace Abbey, grammar of rock and roll, Richard Henry Dana, Ted Williams

I received the alarming telephone call early one morning in Coronado, where I was living at the time and writing some articles for the San Diego Reader, that the New York Times was ready to release the story the very next day.
  • I received the alarming telephone call early one morning in Coronado, where I was living at the time and writing some articles for the San Diego Reader, that the New York Times was ready to release the story the very next day.

Theroux is an American novelist and poet and brother of novelist Paul Theroux and Peter Theroux, a translator of Arabic literary work.

Alexander Theroux's best-known novel is Darconville's Cat (1981). Among his non-fiction works are Primary Colors (1994), Secondary Colors (1996), The Grammar of Rock: Art and Artlessness in 20th Century Pop Lyrics (2013), and Einstein's Beets: An Examination of Food Phobias (2017)

Theroux, who considered his time in San Diego a "joyless" experience, wrote for the Reader from 1995 through 1997.

Editor's picks of Theroux's stories he wrote for the Reader:

Hell with the fire gone out

I picked up a hitchhiker, a quiet Mexican named Carlo, who, for a ride to Borrego, cheerfully agreed to show me pictographs four miles off County Road, where the road leads to a trailhead for a relatively easy one-mile trek through cat’s claw and silver cholla, agave and brittlebush, to a boulder of some size inscribed with faded figures in red and yellow hues by desert Indians, probably Kumeyaay. (Feb. 13, 1997)

Myself and my brothers, part of the Theroux family

Reading in our family was paramount. I have always been struck by the incongruous fact that young Jack Kennedy, because he was a sickly and often bedridden boy (his mother has always cited this as the main reason he grew up reading) turned to books as an alternative to sailing or football. One looks in vain for literary influences anywhere in this family. The Kennedys were doers, not makers, and unlike us, very unlike us, were never intellectuals. (Oct. 3, 1996)

Black's Beach

Black's Beach

Last Eden

Trying openly to inquire about nudism, it began to dawn on me, was not going to be easy. Prurience, even priapism, or what is inevitably taken for such, if not an unprepossessing persona in the first place, is not in most cases an encouraging one. I realized to approach women down there would make me look suspicious, if not unwholesome. Gay men would think I was hitting on them. And single men of whatever sexual persuasion were not down there, I concluded, to give interviews. (June 13, 1996)

Every time I go out among men, I come back less a man

Although I had attended a public high school, starred on the basketball team, and adored girls, even “made out” with them — is this peculiar euphemism still used? — I had an early fascination with the clerical life, which is not such a big thing. So did Stalin, Marlon Brando, and Jerry Brown, to name a few oddballs like me. And when the Fr. Guestmaster suggested I try that life, when I began making retreats at St. Joseph’s Abbey in Spencer, Massachusetts, I thought, why not? (Dec. 21, 1995)

Decent life led by ordinary man

He loved Lincoln, above all, and was word-perfect as to every facet of the assassins’ lives, especially Booth’s. Of special interest to him was the Battle of Bunker Hill, literary New England, and the Pilgrims. My father loved words. He had a rhetorician’s love especially of: Polonius’s Advice to Laertes, which my dad was too guileless to see was, at bottom, sententious and pettifogging. (Nov. 9, 1995)

Paul Anke moos. Neil Sedaka shouts. Lesley Gore whines. Robert Goulet merely talks. Seals and Crofts sound like drunken grigs or munchkins weeing away in high report. Olivia Newton-John alternately shrieks and then sounds like she’s on Valium.

Paul Anke moos. Neil Sedaka shouts. Lesley Gore whines. Robert Goulet merely talks. Seals and Crofts sound like drunken grigs or munchkins weeing away in high report. Olivia Newton-John alternately shrieks and then sounds like she’s on Valium.

Grammar of rock and roll

It was modish, especially in the latitudinarian ‘60s, to speak of the lyrics of rock as “poetry.” And to a degree a certain few lyrics — quixotic, inventive, careening or reflectively lyrical — came sufficiently close. We tend to listen to lyrics, ponder the words, heed and harken to their advice. “And rock is also educational,” said Frank Zappa. “How to ask a girl for a date, what love is like.” (July 20, 1995)

Richard Henry Dana in San Diego

He touched land at San Diego on Saturday, March 14, 1835. It was not only a strangely new place, California was a new word. In a decade, thanks to a gold strike, it would leap into prominence as a new El Dorado and infect the dreams of every restless, acquisitive American, many of whom, preferring death by water than by Indian arrows or covered wagons, sailed precariously around the Horn. (July 6, 1995)

Hateful, hurtful, and Hellish

I was accused of plagiarism in an article in the New York Times on March 3, 1995. It was an ignominious moment in my life, to be sure, although the accusation, which was literally true but morally not — since intention was not involved — had a dirty provenance, to my mind, not only because it was a nonstory (it was given a “kicker” on the front page of that august paper!) but because I have had ongoing problems for several years with that newspaper, more specifically a particular person there, a former editor of the Times Book Review by the name of Rebecca Sinkler, more about whom anon. (June 1, 1995)

Ted Williams, 1941. "In 1939 my mother and father separated and there was more grief, so I just stayed away from San Diego."

Ted Williams, 1941. "In 1939 my mother and father separated and there was more grief, so I just stayed away from San Diego."

Ted Williams' climb from San Diego to Boston

He lived and grew up at 4121 Utah Street. The North Park playground was a block and a half from his house — "It had lights and we could play until nine o'clock at night" — and would become a refuge in what it offered of play for a kid who had few alternatives for fun. There was no television, were no videogames, no malls, nothing to take his attention away from what would lead, not so much to an interest in sports, but to an almost monomaniacal fascination with baseball — and particularly hitting. (May 11, 1995)

15. Jackie Onassis; 16. Elvis Presley; 17. Ayn Rand; 18. the Joker (cesar Romero); 19. Charlie Chaplin; 20. Mia Farrow; 21. David Letterman; 22. Larry Bird; 23. Morton Downey, Jr.; 24. Errol Flynn; 25. Billy Joel; 26. John Denver; 27. Edward G. Robinson; 28. Carly Simon; 29 George Bush; 30. Maurice Chevalier

15. Jackie Onassis; 16. Elvis Presley; 17. Ayn Rand; 18. the Joker (cesar Romero); 19. Charlie Chaplin; 20. Mia Farrow; 21. David Letterman; 22. Larry Bird; 23. Morton Downey, Jr.; 24. Errol Flynn; 25. Billy Joel; 26. John Denver; 27. Edward G. Robinson; 28. Carly Simon; 29 George Bush; 30. Maurice Chevalier

Rita Funk-Hoffman

I would vote for Lauren Bacall as having the perfect mouth

Bogart’s was scarred, Stacy Reach’s harelipped, Harry Reasoner’s — even wider than Peter O’Toole’s — shaped like the slot of a letter box. Picasso had a loose mouth, the kind for some reason often described as sensual. Rasputin, the mad monk, had one the size of a sand trap, as does Morton Downey Jr. (Jan. 19, 1995)

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