Figures in a Landscape is his third collection of essays that have already appeared, from 2001-2016, in slightly different forms in various publications (The Washington Post, Harper's Bazaar, The Guardian, The Smithsonian, New York Times Magazine, etc.) or as book introductions. With travel pieces, literary critiques, people profiles, and personal essays, the 30 pieces here cover a wide range of subjects and are, together, his most polished collection yet. They give us everything we have come to expect from Theroux in his nonfiction: the attentive traveler's sharp eye and canny ear for everything that goes on around him and, to a certain extent, what goes on in his mind as he engages fully with life and everything that comes at him. Whether he's being seriously earnest or ironically satirical, Theroux's prose manages to hit just the right notes so that, at the end of any particular essay, even if we might not be in agreement, we want him to continue on.
This month's short stories column is now up at PopMatters. Inspired by Vera Tobin's recent book, Elements of Surprise, about the "well-made" surprise in fiction (books and movies), these five literary selections give us unexpected surprises or twists done skillfully. As always, the stories are free to read online and by these terrific writers: Alice Munro, Jorge Luis Borges, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Lee Martin, Jennifer Lynne Christie.