Books: Backwaters and Eccentrics

THE MOSQUITO COAST by Paul Theroux; Houghton Mifflin; 374pages; $13.95

The story is just getting started when a minor character tells Charlie, 13, the narrator: "Your father's the most obnoxious man I've ever met. He is the worst kind of pain in the neck—a know-it-all who's sometimes right." This is accurate and fair warning. Allie Fox is a ranter and raver, a Maine-born Yankee of bullying and slightly crazed ingenuity. To accompany him on a shopping trip is to be lectured on U.S. civilization and its discontents. He tells everyone who will listen that the end is near. Reports Charlie: "He said...

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