Acclaimed travel writer Paul Theroux regaled an audience at Campbell Hall yesterday evening with tales of his adventures as global journeyman.

Theroux, a renowned author of more than 30 books detailing his extensive world travels, visited UCSB to mark the release of his newest nonfiction book, Ghost Train to the Eastern Star. In his hour-long speech, Theroux addressed his personal concerns about the deterioration of the genre of travel writing before opening the floor to a question-and-answer session.

Theroux is currently a Distinguished Visiting Fellow in the College of Creative Studies.

Ghost Train to the Eastern Star revisits Theroux’s original breakthrough travel narrative, The Great Railway Bazaar, in which he canvassed Eastern Europe, Central Asia and India in 1973. Now, nearly 40 years later, Theroux’s follow-up book traces the same route.

According to Theroux, his newest work is a testament to the importance of revisiting locales in the travel writing field.

“A theme of my talk today, if I gave it a title, would be something about the importance of revisiting a place – the literature of revision,” Theroux said. “It’s surprising to see how few writers travel again to see how the place has fared – the experience is somewhat like what you would expect from going to a high school reunion.”

In a recent trip, Theroux returned to Malawi, Africa, where he had been the head of a grade school in the 1960s.

“When I was in charge of the school, I would punish the kids who smoked ganja, or were otherwise misbehaving, by making them make bricks,” Theroux said. “They would dig a hole, put straw in it, put clay in the hole, jump on it, put the clay in a mold and make bricks. I had them do this so we could build classrooms, a toilet, walls – all sorts of things. For the past 40 years, I’ve wanted to know what happened to my school, and the buildings we put up.”

In his 40-year absence, Theroux said everything had changed.

“And what had happened? Nothing. More illiteracy, more disease, more sickness, much more poverty, much more people,” Theroux said. “When I went back to Africa, I thought, ‘the most revealing trip you can take is a trip back in time – a revisit.’ The best test of a book – or a place – is the return trip.”

Santa Barbara resident Dave Gustafson said he turns to Theroux’s literature for the sake of his experiences, rather than specific travel recommendations.

“I read him to get his interactions with people, places and cultures because travel writing is subjective and as much about the person as the place,” Gustafson said. “He has such a keen intellect that I read him more for his perspective than to learn about the place.”