Tuesday, October 7, 2008

The Sex Lives of Cannibals - Memoirs

My faith in travel memoirs has been restored! After being disturbingly disappointed in EAT LOVE PRAY (see post from Sept.: I and I and I - Book Bashing) I am having fun with J. Maarten Troost's books, THE SEX LIVES OF CANNIBALS and GETTING STONED WITH SAVAGES.
'Sex Lives' is neither about sex nor about cannibals. It is a story of an American couple living in the South Pacific on the small island of Tarawa on the equator. She works and he pretends to write. Meanwhile he chronicles the daily life of the folks typical of many islands of the South Pacific.
On page one, the author describes why they chose to move to this tiny island nation for two years (other than his girlfriend was offered a job there); he states: "It is the nature of books such as these--the travel, adventure, humor, memoir kind of book--to offer some reason, some driving force, an irreproachable motivation, for undertaking the odd journey.....And typically, the writer emerges a little wiser, a little kinder, more spiritual, with a greater appreciation for the interconnectivity of all things."
About himself, he says, "Let me say at the top that I didn't have a particularly good reason for moving to Tarawa......(explanation of anxiety issues with the general course of Western society)......However, these issues seemed insufficient to justify a renunciation of continental comfort. I was simply restless, quite likely because of a dissatisfaction with the recent trajectory of my life, and if there is a better, more compelling reason for dropping everything and moving to the end of the world, I know not what it is."
I like this guy and I like his attitude. I lent the book to a friend here and she returned my autographed copy (Thanks, Cousin Amy!) with an additional copy that I can safely lend out PLUS the new book, GETTING STONED WITH SAVAGES. (Thanks, Janet!) I just started reading the second book. So far he is getting stoned on kava in Vanuatu and it is hilarious.
Maybe I relate to his books because of my own South Pacific experiences. My husband and I sailed a very bare boat from Hawaii to Samoa, Tonga and Fiji with two crazy guys. We stayed weeks at a time in remote anchorages, lagoons and harbors. We lived for seven months in Fiji working on Qamea Island, which, starting from Nadi where the international airport is located, is a three hour flight, thirty minute taxi ride, and twenty minute boat ride away. There was nothing there except an exclusive resort with 11 bures (palapas!). I had to shop for food for the guests on another island because there was not even a small store on Qamea. I can picture the scenes that J. Maarten Troost paints. Mostly, though, I think he offers the kind fodder that we terminal adventure animals need to survive.
Wanderlust. Another person addicted to adventure. His reading is quick and witty. When I finish writing "I WAS A WETBACK IN MEXICO" I hope to capture this kind of essence....a taste of the rest of the universe outside the sterile environment of the United States. Five stars.

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