Paul Theroux has mellowed a bit, but certainly not lost any of his perspicacity over the years. I loved Ghost Train to the Eastern Star. Theroux meets and makes friends with all sorts of people, from rickshaw drivers to fellow train riders to Orhan Pamuk. Some of the best parts of the book are his meetings with various authors. My favorite is the chapter where he spends a day with Haruki Murakami. I’ve read interviews with Murakami and not learned as much as I did here. Theroux has the advantage in that this book isn’t about Murakami so Murakami isn’t on guard. Theroux’s portrait is the most revealing one I’ve read. Throughout the book are lyrical descriptions of landscapes I hope to one day see and portraits of people I hope to one day meet.
Wanting something a little different, I followed Ghost Train with The Blue Cotton Gown: A Midwife’s Memoir by Patrica Harman. Harman works as a nurse-midwife in a private practice with her ob-gyn husband Tom in Torrington, West Virginia. In this economically depressed area and with the rising costs of malpractice insurance, the couple is forced to provide only gynecological exams and first trimester care. The sections in the book are broken up into the stories of the women Harman treats. They run the gamut; a well to do mother who’s daughter is bulimic; a women being stalked by an ex-husband; young college women needing birth control advice; a professor who wants to make the transition from female to male. It’s an interesting book. Harman is more spiritual than I am (I’m not at all frankly) and isn’t afraid to write about it which might appeal to other people. Her heartfelt portraits of the women she tries to help definitely kept me reading the book.