Books: Free State

MY SECRET HISTORY by Paul Theroux; Putnam; 512 pages; $21.95

Paul Theroux is the writer whose novels read like travel books and whose travel books read like novels. It is not surprising, then, that he has given the matter some thought. For example, in The Great Railway Bazaar, his 1975 best-selling account of rattling through Asia, Theroux concluded that "the difference between travel writing and fiction is the difference between recording what the eye sees and discovering what the imagination knows." He added wistfully, "How sad that I could not reinvent the trip as fiction."

Fourteen productive years and thousands of...

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