Theroux's antihero, Slade Steadman, chronicled his renegade days of globetrotting without the aid of a passport in the bestselling Trespassing—20 years ago. Living luxuriously off royalties on Martha's Vineyard, he has been struggling to finish a second book ever since. Things change when he flies to Ecuador in quest of a potent performance-enhancing drug. He smuggles back to the U.S. a year's supply of the rare datura, which when ingested produces temporary blindness and a paradoxical "blinding light" that exposes truths about the world, truths he uses to complete his pompous, solipsistic Book of Revelation. The substance also luckily boosts his libido, for his relationship with tenacious obstetrician Ava has been on the rocks lately. Prolific Theroux (Dark Star Safari; Hotel Honolulu; etc.) oversaturates this novel with smutty, purplish passages describing cartoonish erotic encounters. The cheap sexual transgressions of a thinly veiled Bill Clinton character also take center stage as Theroux overworks a mirroring link between the fallible president and Steadman, who after the publication of his book continues to deceive his friends and the clamoring public by claiming to be truly blind. Theroux's language is typically vivid and lush when describing the Ecuadorian jungle. On the whole, however, his prose is repetitive, and Steadman is uncongenial, his fate after a year of substance abuse all too predictable. Agent, Andrew Wylie. Author tour. (June 1)
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Unlike Slade Steadman, the one-book wonder portrayed in this suspenseful Faustian tale of toxic inspiration, Theroux has 40 books to his credit, including a number of edgy best-selling travel chronicles. A masterful and mesmerizing storyteller who has seen it all, Theroux is drawn to transgression and the darker zones of eroticism, and there is much irony in Steadman's claim to fame, Trespassing, a book about his travels around the world without a passport. Trespassing has made Steadman, now 50, rich, but he hasn't been able to write in years. Enter Ava, a beautiful doctor, who convinces him to go on a drug tour in Ecuador. There an overbearing German journalist becomes Steadman's savior and nemesis by introducing him to a psychotropic plant known as the tiger's blindfold. Although the hallucinogen does, indeed, temporarily blind Steadman, it also heightens his extrasensory powers of perception and dispels his writer's block. By day he dictates an explicit novel to Ava, then, at night, they reenact the lascivious encounters he describes (is this a variation on every writer's secret fantasy?). But as in all the indelible old myths about hubris and forbidden powers, Steadman goes too far. And he is not alone, as Theroux slyly links Steadman's harrowing downfall to that of another powerful man who can't help but tempt fate, President Bill Clinton. Theroux's greatest powers reside in his detailed and sensuous descriptions, and he is positively dazzling here as he calls forth a vivid world not of sights but of scents, sounds, and touch. So all-consuming does this sexy, gothic fable and searing social critique become, it itself serves as a mind-altering substance. Donna Seaman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.