(Please: All Concise Interviews with Notable People are real and unembellished, and should not be considered satirical or fabricated. To think so would be wrong.)
In 1997, Jason Wilson, journalist of New Jersey, was asked by Hemispheres, the in-flight magazine of United Airlines, to write a piece about the popularity of travel writing. The piece would not be complete without a quote from Paul Theroux, a popular writer of travel books, so Wilson procured Mr. Theroux’s semi-secret Cape Cod phone number from Theroux’s publicist, and called him.
Jason Wilson: Hi, Mr. Theroux. I’m the writer from Hemispheres. Your publicist gave me this number. I’m calling to talk to you about an article on the popularity of travel writing.
Paul Theroux: Travel writing! My publicist told me you were calling to talk about my new novel, Kowloon Tong.
JW: No, I’m the writer from Hemispheres. I was calling to talk to you about travel writing.
PT: Hemispheres? Wasn’t it you people who called my publicist a few weeks ago to inquire about my writing an essay on travel writing?
JW (with no knowledge of fact that his editor had perhaps tried to previously assign this story to Mr. Theroux): Uh. I don’t think I know anything about that, Mr. Theroux.
PT: Yes, your editor called my publicist a while ago and asked if I would write an essay on travel writing. I thought about it, but I told her no, I just couldn’t. Not at the rate they offered.
JW (beginning to get miffed with both his Hemispheres editor and Mr. Theroux): Uh.
PT: Quite frankly, I’m not too thrilled about this. This is, after all, how I make my living. When there’s one of these stories on travel writing, I generally like to be the one who writes it, because I believe I can do a better job than anyone else.
JW: Oh. Okay. Well, can we still talk?
PT: Oh, okay. Since she’s already given you the number, we can talk briefly.
JW: I’d read somewhere that it annoyed you that most people only thought of you as a travel writer, and not as a novelist. Why is that?