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THE BATTLE OF ARGINUSAE :
VICTORY AT SEA AND ITS TRAGIC AFTERMATH IN THE FINAL YEARS OF THE PELOPONNESIAN WAR
By Debra Hamel


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KILLING ERATOSTHENES:
A TRUE CRIME STORY
FROM ANCIENT ATHENS
By Debra Hamel


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READING HERODOTUS:
A GUIDED TOUR THROUGH THE WILD BOARS, DANCING SUITORS, AND CRAZY TYRANTS OF THE HISTORY
By Debra Hamel


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THE MUTILATION OF THE HERMS:
UNPACKING AN ANCIENT MYSTERY
By Debra Hamel


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TRYING NEAIRA:
THE TRUE STORY OF A COURTESAN'S SCANDALOUS LIFE IN ANCIENT GREECE
By Debra Hamel


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PRISONERS OF THE PELOPONNESIAN WAR
By Debra Hamel


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SOCRATES AT WAR:
THE MILITARY HEROICS OF AN ICONIC INTELLECTUAL
By Debra Hamel


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ANCIENT GREEKS IN DRAG:
THE LIBERATION OF THEBES AND OTHER ACTS OF HEROIC TRANSVESTISM
By Debra Hamel


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IT WAS A DARK AND STORMY TWEET:
FIVE HUNDRED 1ST LINES IN 140 CHARACTERS OR LESS
By Debra Hamel


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I've decided to stop accepting review copies. The downside of getting buried in free books is that reading increasingly becomes an obligatory act. After some seven years of blogging books, it's time for me to return to the simple pleasure of reading only the books I want to read, when I want to read them.



  
From a random review:

  

« Rose, M.J.: Author interview | Main | Blanc, Nero: Author interview »

Troost, J. Maarten: The Sex Lives of Cannibals

  

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Broadway © 2004, 288 pages [amazon]
5 stars

Author J. Maarten Troost and his girlfriend Sylvia moved in their mid-twenties, in the late 90s, to Tarawa, the capital of the Republic of Kiribati, a country in the equatorial Pacific that is composed of 33 atolls--comprising in toto a mere 300 square miles--spread across a patch of ocean as big as the continental United States. Sylvia had been hired as the new director of the Kiribati office of the Foundation for the Peoples of the South Pacific, succeeding in this position an ostensibly malevolent, angular woman who, as she herself explained--dyspeptically, ill-omenedly--just couldn't take it anymore. Troost, who had recently finished graduate school in Washington D.C. and was looking to avoid serious work, and who besides had a yen for travel in lesser-known locales, was in Kiribati as a hanger-on and adventurer. He would also, of course, serve as a chronicler of the exotica to be encountered.

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.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.

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Comments

1.

I'll be on the lookout for this book; it sounds good! I think I may just needlepoint a cushion with "Tim-tim-te-rara" - much more interesting than "Home Sweet Home"!

2.

My first comment at the new site! Thanks, Susan.

3.

Hi, so I loved the book and seiously want to move to kiribati, is this super dangerous for a 20yr old female from florida. Actually I know what you wil say about this idea however, I don't know if this will actually reach you because I searched & searched for your email and it's impossible. Please be stoked I'm doing my best at ''proper english'' just for you! Very difficult Seeing has how I'm a non-stop text messager & love short hand bc no phone in the whole world can ever send my mile long texts before they give me the ''to long'' bs! Anyway I will seriously consider Kiribati as an option to mover to even after the horrible things I read onling when I searched for Kiribati, and I thought you upstaged it! From what I learned online it sounds so much more raw and brutal... is the only reason you and your gf/wife not get sacrificed bc you had serious jobs there? So what would you think my chances of survival would be seriously?? I loved the part in the book where you finally got to that other island & the people offered you either lobster or canned like chicken something?!? Haha my whole family loved when I told them to go buy the book bc I wouldn't tell them the rest...mom & dad bought it separatly not knowing the other had already purchased it! much love




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About the blogger: Debra is the mother of two preternaturally attractive girls and the author of a number of books about ancient Greece, including Trying Neaira: The True Story of a Courtesan's Scandalous Life in Ancient Greece. She writes and blogs from her subterranean lair in North Haven, CT. Read more.

  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  






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Book-blog.com by Debra Hamel is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution - Noncommercial - No Derivative Works 3.0 License.