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The Sex Lives of Cannibals: Adrift in the Equatorial Pacific Kindle Edition
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At the age of twenty-six, Maarten Troost—who had been pushing the snooze button on the alarm clock of life by racking up useless graduate degrees and muddling through a series of temp jobs—decided to pack up his flip-flops and move to Tarawa, a remote South Pacific island in the Republic of Kiribati. He was restless and lacked direction, and the idea of dropping everything and moving to the ends of the earth was irresistibly romantic. He should have known better.
The Sex Lives of Cannibals tells the hilarious story of what happens when Troost discovers that Tarawa is not the island paradise he dreamed of. Falling into one amusing misadventure after another, Troost struggles through relentless, stifling heat, a variety of deadly bacteria, polluted seas, toxic fish—all in a country where the only music to be heard for miles around is “La Macarena.” He and his stalwart girlfriend Sylvia spend the next two years battling incompetent government officials, alarmingly large critters, erratic electricity, and a paucity of food options (including the Great Beer Crisis); and contending with a bizarre cast of local characters, including “Half-Dead Fred” and the self-proclaimed Poet Laureate of Tarawa (a British drunkard who’s never written a poem in his life).
With The Sex Lives of Cannibals, Maarten Troost has delivered one of the most original, rip-roaringly funny travelogues in years—one that will leave you thankful for staples of American civilization such as coffee, regular showers, and tabloid news, and that will provide the ultimate vicarious adventure.
From Publishers Weekly
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the paperback edition.
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to the paperback edition.
- ASIN : B000FC1QTC
- Publisher : Crown (June 8, 2004)
- Publication date : June 8, 2004
- Language : English
- File size : 2051 KB
- Text-to-Speech : Enabled
- Screen Reader : Supported
- Enhanced typesetting : Enabled
- X-Ray : Enabled
- Word Wise : Enabled
- Sticky notes : On Kindle Scribe
- Print length : 288 pages
- Page numbers source ISBN : 0767915305
- Best Sellers Rank: #316,331 in Kindle Store (See Top 100 in Kindle Store)
- Customer Reviews:
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Reviewed in the United States on June 15, 2021
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Among the first things Troost found worthy of thus chronicling after his arrival in Kiribati was his first blissful swim in the Pacific--all palm trees and booming surf and brilliant sun--an idyllic atmosphere that was marred by what Troost found waiting for him in the shallows when he waded back to shore: there, directly between the author and dry land, was a large pair of defecating human buttocks, whose owner soon took to wiping himself with twigs and casting aloft these feces-laden utensils on the outgoing tide...outgoing, that is, in the direction of our in-wading author. Troost later discovered that at low tide the beaches of his atoll tended to be pockmarked by reeking piles of human and animal waste.
Apart from fecal matters, which seem to loom very large indeed on Tarawa, Troost discusses the surprising abundance of fabric softener on the atoll (surprising, that is, as the I-Kiribati do not own a single dryer among them), the difficulty of riding a bike in an equatorial climate on a road covered with pigs and chickens while holding a large, wet fish, and the unexpected allure of cannibalism: "I had no desire to eat anyone's arm, but once you've digested raw sea worms and boiled moray eels you begin to think a little more creatively about what precisely constitutes food." There are, besides, bits of good-humored, informative narrative thrown in. In a section on the ethnic origins of the I-Kiribati, for example, Troost writes of the possibility that the original population of the atoll had once been displaced--read "eaten"--by savage Polynesians from Samoa:
"The Polynesians worshipped the god Rongo, and what Rongo liked was human flesh. The sails of their war canoes were creatively decorated with the likeness of a human head, called te bou-uoua. There was another crest called tim-tim-te-rara. This translates as drip-drip-the-blood, a reference to the heads driven on stakes that Rongo liked to see scattered around like knickknacks. So, picture lolling about on the beach, idly scanning the horizon, when suddenly you see hundreds of warriors approach in canoes bedecked with the image of a severed head. It's not going to be a good day."
This sort of fish-out-of-water memoir--Troost calls it a "travel, adventure, humor, memoir kind of book"--depends for its success not so much on the otherness of the location under discussion: the mores and denizens of a local diner can probably seem interesting and alien enough to warrant a book given the proper write-up. Success depends rather on the personality and writerly wit of its author. And J. Maarten Troost is a very fine writer indeed. The Sex Lives of Cannibals is a funny and charming and even eye-opening little book, just the thing to take to the beach.... But do be on the lookout for any incoming severed-head-bedecked boats.
Reviewed by Debra Hamel, author of Trying Neaira: The True Story of a Courtesan's Scandalous Life in Ancient Greece
In mid-1990's, Troost follows his girlfriend Sylvia to Tarawa, capital of the Equatorial Pacific country of Kiribati, otherwise known as the Gilbert Islands. Kiribati, comprising 33 islands roughly the area of greater Baltimore, is spread over an expanse of water the size of the United States. Sylvia had gotten a job as the new country director of the FSP (Foundation for the Peoples of the South Pacific), a do-gooder organization working out of Washington, DC. Maarten and Sylvia lived on Tarawa, specifically South Tarawa, for two years.
Troost has the humorous style reminiscent of another of my favorite travel essayists, Pete McCarthy. It has bite, as when Marteen describes the shenanigans of Kiribati government officials:
"As far as I could tell, the government spends a lot of time drinking and brawling. No workshop on global climate change is complete until the assistant secretary of the environment has passed out in a pool of beer barf ..."
And sometimes, he's right on, as when he mulls the fate of History in the United States:
" ... history is largely paved over, abandoned, and relegated to textbooks so shockingly dull that they could only have been written by politically correct creationists whose sole objective was to offend no one." Hear, hear!
Troost is also not above wry self-deprecation, as when he introduces himself to an island group according in the Kiribati tradition:
"Maarten, son of Herman of Holland, had a medieval ring. True, it wasn't as evocative as say Vlad the Impaler, but still, Maarten, son of Herman of Holland, suggested trouble."
Troost learns early on that Tarawa, the site of the bloody WWII assault by the Second Marine Division on the occupying Japanese garrison, is no tropical paradise. True, there are the glorious sunsets, crystal clear lagoons, and the achingly radiant colors of ocean, sky and palms, but there are also the feces-strewn beaches, piles of garbage, a monotonous diet (mostly fish), the suffocating heat, bad water, unreliable electrical service, no availability of mainstream print media, wretched airline connections, diseases, intestinal parasites, poor health care, a disinterested government bureaucracy, and, perhaps worst of all, no place to go. Yet, despite all this, Maarten and Sylvia discover a life, or rather a quality and pace of life, more genuine than is found back in the States. Indeed, two years after returning to Washington from Kiribati, the two return to Oceana - first to Vanuatu, then Fiji - for several years before relocating permanently to the original Land of Make Believe, California.
THE SEX LIVES OF CANNIBALS contains no photos of Maarten, Sylvia, or Tarawa, or even a map of the atoll; this is its biggest deficiency. Otherwise, the author entertained me with tales of an exotic place that I shall never find the time to visit. I couldn't ask for more.
Top reviews from other countries
It is the self-written tale of a man who spends 2 years on the tiny atoll accompanying his girlfriend who has secured a job here, and he has nothing really to do. This mirrors my situation somewhat as my partner has a 12 month contract here.
Although the author was here in the 90s, much has changed, although much has also not, and I have found myself wanting to buy copies of this book for all of our friends and families for them to understand that it may appear to be paradise, but it can also be hell!
Having spent 7 years in Australia, and travelled quite extensively, I don’t think I have experienced quite the level of culture shock as the author did coming from America – particularly the heat. It also helps that my partner is a Pilot and we brought a plane here – one that isn’t a rickety old thing held together by duct tape – so I don’t quite have that same feeling of being stranded here!
It was a great eye opener to some things that I am sure would be a few months before we learned ourselves, and also a good laugh at some of the things here that you wonder “Is it just me?!”
My partner was referred to as I-Matang (outsider/white man) yesterday when the owner of our little home asked me to get him to go to the power company to ask for the power to be switched back on. When I asked ‘why us’ his response was ‘I-Kiribati are scared of I-Matang” - and without this book I wouldn’t have known what they meant!
I really enjoyed reading this and look forward to reading his other book Getting Stoned With Savages - Fiji and Vanuatu.
It is also quite ironic that I read the majority of this book during a day at home, with food poisoning (aka ‘the s***s’), during a 12 hour power cut, thus not being able to flush the toilet!
This copy's now going to do the rounds with my friends. I read it on a recommendation and it was well worth it!