My secret life: Paul Theroux, travel writer, 67

The house I grew up in ... was full of people – my parents and seven children, which instilled in me a desire to leave.

When I was a child I wanted to be ... a doctor of tropical medicine.

The moment that changed me for ever ... was the moment my first child was born. I was happy, filled with hope, and thought, "Now I understand the whole point of work, of life, of love".

My greatest inspiration ... is memory.

My real-life villain ... is anyone who says, "That murder was necessary".

My style icon ... Yvon Chouinard, surfer, mountain-climber, businessman, philanthropist and [as the founder of the Patagonia label] maker of sturdy clothing.

If I could change one thing about myself ... I would find a way of ridding myself of gout.

At night I dream of ... flying like a frigate bird, on the up-flows of wind currents, hardly moving my arms, but often soaring to considerable heights.

What I see when I look in the mirror ... is an unfamiliar face.

My favourite item of clothing ... is a Borsalino hat, splendid for all occasions, at home and abroad.

I wish I'd never worn ... bell bottoms in the 1970s.

It's not fashionable but I like ... to spit out of the window of a moving train.

You wouldn't know it but I'm very good at ... growing and propagating non-invasive types of bamboo.

You may not know it but I'm no good at ... coping with all the attention in the luxury hotels I sometimes find myself in.

All my money goes on ... supporting myself while I am trying to think of an idea that will make me some money.

If I have time to myself ... I sit on a sunny beach, eating ice-cream and pondering the narcissism of minor differences in the world.

I ride ... a Merlin titanium hybrid bike up many volcanic ridges in Hawaii.

My house is ... a place I have spent many years improving to the point where I have no desire to leave it.

My most valuable possession is ... a small leather briefcase (made by Glaser Designs in San Francisco) which is my portable office, containing a clipboard, a pad of white lined paper, a tiny radio and earphones, and a selection of pens and other items necessary to write on the road or under a palm tree.

My favourite building is ... Victoria Station (now called Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus) in Bombay (Mumbai).

Movie heaven is ... The Godfather.

A book that changed me ... was The Worst Journey in the World, by Apsley Cherry-Garrard – a magnificent book about a harrowing trip, written brilliantly by a modest and obscure man.

My favourite work of art ... is the Bayon temple at the centre of Angkor Thom, in Cambodia.

The last album I bought ... was Monsters of Grace by Philip Glass.

The person who really makes me laugh ... is any politician who starts a speech, "What we really need to do now is tighten our belts ..."

The shops I can't walk past ... are those in the heart of England (Ludlow comes to mind) filled with different kinds of cheese.

The best invention ever ... is the twist-off beer bottle cap.

In 10 years' time I hope to be ... having a couple of adorable little children, sort of like Rupert Murdoch did in his seventies. Ha! Just joking. All I want is to still be here 10 years' hence.

My greatest regret ... is that I did not go to medical school when I still had an agile-enough brain to do so.

My life in seven words ... joyous, bewildering, rewarded, secretive, familial, passionate, American.

A life in brief

Paul Theroux was born on 10 April 1941 in Medford, Massachusetts, and worked as a Peace Corps teacher in Malawi before taking up writing. Among his most famous works are the novel Mosquito Coast, which was made into a Hollywood film, and the travel book The Great Railway Bazaar. He is also a professional beekeeper and lives with his second wife in Cape Cod and Hawaii. Paul Theroux's latest book is Ghost Train to the Eastern Star (published by Hamish Hamilton)

Suggested Topics
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

HR Manager - Kent - £45,000

£40000 - £45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: HR Manager / Training Manager (L&D /...

HR Manager - Edgware, London - £45,000

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Manager - Edgware, Lon...

HR Manager - London - £40,000 + bonus

£32000 - £40000 per annum + bonus: Ashdown Group: HR Manager (Generalist) -Old...

Talent Manager / HR Manager - central London - £50,000

£45000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Talent / Learning & Development Mana...

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam