In his latest collection of essays, the eclectic writer takes a helicopter ride with Elizabeth Taylor, goes surfing with Oliver Sacks, tours a dominatrix's dungeon, and weighs in on his literary heroes.
His interviews with both the famous and the unsung are wonderful ... Theroux also writes perceptively about authors he admires, such as Graham Greene and Georges Simenon. Although there are one or two essays here that struggle to justify their inclusion, overall the book is evidence of both the breadth of Theroux’s interests and his skill in bringing them to life.
...it goes a long way toward dispelling the image of Theroux as a long-suffering misanthrope setting out on the rails and the roads yet again. What emerges instead is a portrait of an optimist with curiosity and affection for humanity in all its forms, as well as a ravenous appetite for the literary efforts of others ... Taken together, these essays draw a picture of a cheerful polymath thoroughly enjoying even those conversations that he later pretends to find tiresome.
While the title may suggest a single painting, the 30 essays included here are alive with locales as varied as Theroux’s many journeys. He is a collector of experiences with the famous and infamous, the familiar and the exotic, the literati and the little guys ... Having been everywhere and done almost everything, Theroux concludes Figures in a Landscape closer to home, examining his childhood and parents with the circumspection of a worldly-wise adult.