Paul Theroux on ‘Multilayered and Maddening’ Hawaii
Travel Blog • Jim Benning • 05.14.12 | 10:43 AM ET
Paul Theroux lives in Hawaii but finds aspects of the archipelago’s culture to be mysterious and nearly impenetrable. When he set out to talk with natives about local traditions, he was met with silence and monosyllabic replies, even when he turned up with gifts of honey from his own bees.
I had never in my traveling or writing life come across people so unwilling to share their experiences. Here I was living in a place most people thought of as Happyland, when in fact it was an archipelago with a social structure that was more complex than any I had ever encountered—beyond Asiatic. One conclusion I reached was that in Hawaii, unlike any other place I had written about, people believed that their personal stories were their own, not to be shared, certainly not to be retold by someone else. Virtually everywhere else people were eager to share their stories, and their candor and hospitality had made it possible for me to live my life as a travel writer.