Silversea Cruises has named acclaimed novelist and travel writer Paul Theroux as the first of nine “Tale Tellers” announced for its World Cruise 2022, which the line is also calling the Tale of Tales.
The author, who wrote his first novel almost 54 years ago and has published more than 50 books, joins the line again, after the 2019 Tale of Tales World Cruise.
He will be talking about his new book Under the Wave at Waimea, which is published this week. The novel is an intriguing tale of a surfer in Hawaii, and during the sessions onboard Silver Whisper, Theroux will be exploring Hawaiian culture and society, as well as talking about his many adventures over the years.
Theroux will join the ship at the very start of its voyage from Fort Lauderdale on 6 January 2022 and will disembark in Lima (Callao) on 18 January. During the voyage around Central and South America, he will engage in a range of activities and talks.
“I cannot wait to reconnect with old friends and new onboard Silver Whisper, as the first Tale Teller of the World Cruise 2022,” said Theroux. “There were countless experiences from the voyage in 2019 that have stayed with me and I’m eager to see what awaits in 2022. To travel the way you travel with Silversea – it’s like a dream.”
The writer will also contribute a chapter to Silversea’s Tale of Tales anthology, which will be a collection of artistic works from all nine Tale Tellers who join the voyage presented to guests at its conclusion.
“Along with eight other celebrated creatives, Paul will embark for one segment of this magnificent voyage, sharing his talent for storytelling to enrich the experience for our guests,” said Barbara Muckermann, chief marketing officer, Silversea Cruises. “As a Tale Teller, Paul will host a range of exclusive activities onboard, while getting to know his fellow travellers.”
Theroux’s latest novel is being published as the author turns 80 this week, and to mark the partnership, Silversea and Paul Theroux took part in an exclusive interview – here, we share the highlights.
Q: Is the release of Under the Wave at Waimea the perfect gift for your 80th birthday?
PT: It’s the best! More than I’d hoped for. When I was a college student, I used to publish the university newspaper. So I had a column, but I never thought then that I’d be here all these years later; you never know what’s going to happen. Back then, you have no idea what your life is going to be, you have no notion. But when I started publishing, I used to think: “I hope I can keep doing this, because I really don’t want a job. I would like to make a living doing this.” And it’s very hard now for someone to do this. If someone in college would tell me now, I want to be a writer, I would say, I hope you have another job, because this is a different world now. Publishing is different, magazines are different, newspapers are different. But when I started doing it, it was still kind of old-fashioned. But I knew I could only do it if I kept writing and I did it well. So, I never turned any work down. I didn’t get any free money. The one time I could use it was when I did have a job; I was a teacher in Singapore. And I quit my job and I applied for a Fulbright and a Guggenheim grant and they turned me down. But then it all worked out. I wrote a book (Saint Jack) that was turned into a movie and that saved me.
Q: Your new book is about a big-wave surfer in Hawaii – what draws you to surfing?
PT: The grace, the bravery and the athleticism of surfers is fascinating. Most of my friends here surf – the plumber surfs, the electrician surfs, the guy that does the roof, they’re all surfers. And when the surf is up, they don’t show up [for work]. And I understand that. Surfers are possessed by this desire that if there’s surf, they’re on it. They just live for it. The epigraph of the book is by famous Hawaiian surfer Duke Kahanamoku, which says, “Out of the water, I am nothing.” These guys, they’re supposedly amphibians. But not really, because when they’re on land, they don’t know what to do! They’re just waiting for something to happen. And the surfing group is very tribalistic. A lot of surfers, local guys, will say “this is our wave,” just like you’d say this is our neighbourhood, this is our turf. That territorial aspect is very interesting.
Q: How did the story come about?
PT: I wanted to write about a surfer, but I couldn’t just write about a surfer getting old and complaining about younger people. I wanted it to give it some drama. Something where it has such a traumatic effect on him in the first part of the book that he almost drowns. Things just keep going wrong in his life. As though it’s karma or a curse, or something in his unconscious mind that’s seriously bothering him, preventing him from living his life. That’s when his girlfriend comes in and says we’ll figure this out. And that’s the essence of the book: he has to care about something other than himself. But Joe Sharkey is also an older guy and that’s another aspect of the novel. As you get older, you love doing something, but there’s a point when you say, “I can’t do it any more. My body isn’t what it used to be.” And you wonder when your age starts to show. That’s Joe Sharkey. He recognises that he’s actually got nothing going, only surfing and his fame.
Q: Do you also draw parallels between yourself and Joe Sharkey?
PT: Yes, because I’m growing old too. But getting old is very interesting; people look at you differently, you look at other people differently. Sharkey talks about the great surfers of the past, but it’s a past that no one knows about. And that’s also how I feel: as if I remember a time that no one else remembers. I used to drive to New York City, park in Madison Avenue, do what I had to do, put my money in the parking meter and leave. I mean, it was easy to find a parking spot in any city in the 1960s, even into the 70s. But now it’s impossible.
Q: You are now part of the Silversea ‘ohana’, or family… how does that feel?
PT: Yes, it’s very special. People have a lot of good relationships with one another. I feel that I’ve been welcomed in that aspect. And I’m looking forward to the World Cruise 2022, where I’ll be one of the Tale Tellers on the first segment. To travel the way you travel with Silversea, it’s like a dream. The previous year I participated on the World Cruise in 2019. I came back with a wonderful story from Madagascar.
This interview with Paul Theroux is an extract – to read the full piece, head to Silversea’s travel blog, Discover.
• Silversea’s 137-day Tale of Tales World Cruise 2022 departs Fort Lauderdale on 6 January 2022, calling at 69 destinations across 32 countries and six continents.