Well, I finished it. It took me awhile… I was very distracted this week with all the new television, and this cough that just won’t go away. But I was determined to finish this today, and now I have.
This book was an interesting choice for me. I was indeed an anthropology major in college, and this brought me right back to a few lectures. This book is listed as a “travel” book, but its really more of a light-hearted ethnology, where the author has placed himself in a setting completely foreign to him and he tells of what he has learned of the culture. The setting in this case is the tiny atoll in the Equatorial Pacific called Tarawa. His girlfriend has taken a job there with an NGO, and he goes along with her. He humorously tells about first getting acquainted with the tiny atoll, ideally thought to be paradise but then reality showed it to be overpopulated, lacking water, electricity and a waste management system. They endure there for two years… dealing with stray dogs, Peeping Toms, listening to the Macerena a few too many times and all the disease and parasites that come with a place like this. Its not all bad though… he talks almost lovingly of the ocean (once you get past where the natives go to the bathroom) and tells of the divine enjoyment he finds windsurfing and body surfing. But when two years is up, they head back to civilization (on an airplane with air conditioning, and no masking tape to keep the aircraft together). Yes, they definitely had an interesting time over there. I enjoyed reading about it, but I can’t say that it has changed my life or anything (other than knowing where not to go when I win millions in the lottery). I am thankful that he interspersed his experiences with historical fact and cultural oral histories. I always enjoy getting a look at a culture unlike my own… but I don’t think I’m going to rush out for any of his other books.
It should be noted (in case you are wondering) that while there is some talk of the natives sex lives (specifically when they abstain for a cultural ritual – the government’s Inter-ministerial Song and Dance Competition), there is almost no talk about cannibals at all. Also, there is a disclaimer at the beginning of the book that some names have been changed and that he changed some chronology of events. I guess the publisher wanted to head off any potential James Frey situation.
The Sex Lives of Cannibals: Adrift in the Equatorial Pacific
by J. Maarten Troost
Broadway Books, 2004