Monday, September 29, 2014

Book Review - Blinding Light by Paul Theroux

Let me just say for the record - I do not like Slade Steadman.

As I have stated in previous blog posts, I love the author Paul Theroux. His words have always entertained me and they leave me wanting more. And, although I did enjoy reading Blinding Light, I found myself truly disliking the main character, the author Slade Steadman. The book begins with Slade and his ex-girlfriend and physician Ava traveling to Ecuador as part of a trip to search for a drug. The small group that Slade and Ava travel with are all "followers" of Slade's book entitled Trespassing. Trespassing is seen as the bible for those who seek the ultimate adventure in their lives; thanks to Slade's massive hit of a book, there are now clothes, Jeeps, luggage and everything under the sun fashioned in the style of the "Trespasser", the one who is not limited by rules and borders.

The drug that the group seeks is a hallucinogenic and yet when they do take it, it leaves them feeling less than euphoric. However, thanks to one of the members of the group, the German reporter Manfred, Slade is introduced to a powerful mixture created by the herb datura that causes temporary blindness yet allows the person to become hyper sensitive to their surroundings and even obtain a sense of prophetic visions. Slade, in taking the drug, becomes a visionary for the world around him and the lies that people use as "masks" in their everyday lives. He then begins on a new book entitled The Book of Revelations, filled with drug fueled visions of the erotic and his own sexually charged past. At the same time, we the readers learn of a certain President who becomes caught up in a sex scandal with a certain intern. Slade, a friend of the President, becomes caught up in his own web of lies and deceit as his daily datura concoction becomes more than he ever hoped for.

While I did enjoy reading Theroux's words, especially his descriptions of Boston and Martha's Vineyard (reminding me of my recent trip to New England in July), I found that I had no love or even remote like of Slade. I found him to be at first a sulking author who refused his fame and glory for his one novel, only to become a beyond arrogant man "blinded" by the datura who thought himself to be on a higher plain than the rest of the world and therefore untouchable. Yet, and I'm going to give a spoiler, when he does eventually become truly blind, he turns into a crumbling heap of pity and self loathing that made me cringe every time he stumbled through his darkness. Ava, in her own "unique" way, tries to help him through regular sessions of sex with a third unidentified woman. All is in vain until the answer comes in such a rushed end of the book that I found myself wondering if perhaps Slade should have just remained blind and left to his own devices at his home in the Vineyard.

If you are a fan of Theroux, I do recommend reading Blinding Light at least once; his descriptions of Massachusetts and Ecuador flow like a persuasive travel guide, yet Slade Steadman and his actions left me with a sour taste in my mouth. However, I remain a fan of Theroux and I do look forward to reading more of his works.


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