Q&A: Why Paul Theroux Loves Cape Cod


Family conflicts aside, you described summer on the Cape as a fantasy of bliss, a place to lounge on hammocks, eat lobster and steamed clams, and enjoy the sound of the crickets. Is this your version of paradise?

I wouldn’t spend the summer anywhere else. I never travel in the summer. From the end of May until the middle of September, I’m on the Cape. People ask me to go to writers’ conferences or go to Brazil or write about Greenland or wherever, and I say, “No. Get back to me around Columbus Day and maybe I’ll consider it.”

Apart from the traffic, there’s no real downside here. There’s a height restriction on buildings, which is a great advantage. I live in Hawaii half the year, and there, there’s always a new building, a new road, a new business, a new tower block. Big hideous buildings blocking your view of the sea. When I come to the Cape nothing ever changes. Where I live, there’s no fast food — no McDonald’s, no Taco Bell, no KFC, just mom and pops and the Edward Hopper ambience.

The protagonist of “Mother Land” occupies his mother’s cottage on the Cape during the high season and she has the audacity to charge him for his stay. Is having a cottage on the Cape a blessing or a curse?

It’s a mixed blessing. People will want to visit you and stay there. I dislike the accumulated karma in hotel rooms, the much-used mattresses. In order to work, I like to have a place to call my own. As a writer, I don’t like to be interrupted or uprooted. I need to be in my own space.