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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:

  

« Snicket, Lemony: The End | Main | Rimington, Stella: At Risk »

Troost, J. Maarten: Getting Stoned with Savages

  

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Broadway Books © 2006, 239 pages [amazon]
4.5 stars

In his best-selling travel memoir The Sex Lives of Cannibals (read my review), J. Maarten Troost chronicled the two years he spent living in Kiribati in the equatorial Pacific with his girlfriend Sylvia. After the period covered by the book Troost spent another two years in Washington D.C. working as, of all things, a "hoity-toity consultant to the World Bank," a change in lifestyle akin to, say, giving up a job on Gilligan's Island to work for Donald Trump. Fortunately the suit and tie and dependable paycheck of buttoned-down life didn't capture Troost, and he and Sylvia left civilization behind again, lured by warmer climes and the laid-back tropical mentality: "Stuff happens, but tomorrow the sun will rise again."

But more alarming than the tremors and the lava and the frequent cyclones, more alarming even than the shark-infested waters that put a damper on life in paradise, are the foot-long, poisonous, carnivorous, child-killing centipedes that live in Vanuatu.This time the couple moved to Vanuatu--formerly the New Hebrides--a country about the size of Connecticut that's composed of some 80 islands and lies directly on the Pacific Ring of Fire, which is to say that it's geologically interesting: Vanuatu has nine active volcanoes and experiences frequent, even daily, earthquakes. But more alarming than the tremors and the lava and the frequent cyclones, more alarming even than the shark-infested waters that put a damper on life in paradise, are the foot-long, poisonous, carnivorous, child-killing centipedes that live in Vanuatu. That's right, killer centipedes. And if you should get up the nerve to take an axe to one of them and, say, chop it into five pieces, it doesn't mean you've done away with it: it means you've now got five killer centipedes running around loose. Paradise has its price.

In addition to recounting his harrowing adventures with the island wildlife, Troost writes about Vanuatu's history and culture and living conditions. He spends a good deal of time describing the experience of drinking kava, a muddy liquid--"to the uninitiated...the most wretchedly foul-tasting beverage ever concocted by Man"--that became Troost's drug of choice on the island. And, happily, Troost put considerable effort into researching the country's long--and relatively recent--history of cannibalism:

"The last officially recorded incident of cannibalism in Vanuatu was in 1969 on the island of Malekula. I was born in 1969, and while I am willing to concede that 1969 is rapidly receding into the dim mists of time, it wasn't that long ago. Humor me. It seemed to me that if people were still officially gnawing at human limbs in 1969, it was more than possible that, since then, there had been some off-the-books cannibalism going on in Vanuatu."
About two-thirds of the way into the book, Sylvia having become pregnant, the couple decided to move to Fiji, where delivery promised to be less nightmarish. Fiji, it turned out, was full of prostitutes, both male and female, and Troost recounts his adventures on that front with his usual good humor.

The Sex Lives of Cannibals, Troost's first book, was a laugh-out-loud funny, you-must-go-buy-it-now kind of read. (Really, go buy it now.) Getting Stoned with Savages is not quite as good a book. It drags a bit when Troost is talking about Vanuatu's government, for example. But it suffers in comparison only because the author set the bar so very, very high with his first book. Getting Stoned with Savages is a funny book, and Troost's a likeable, self-deprecating, witty guide through the cultures and countries of Vanuatu and Fiji. Since I'll never be going to either country, I'm glad Troost is around to write about them for us. And I hope he winds up writing a great many more books.


Review summary: J. Maarten Troost's best-selling travel memoir The Sex Lives of Cannibals (read my review) chronicled the two years the author spent living in the equatorial Pacific with his girlfriend. Troost is back with a second book about the couple's time in Fiji and Vanuatu. The author writes amusingly about Vanuatu's earthquakes, volcanoes, and frequent cyclones, as well as its shark-infested waters and the foot-long, poisonous, carnivorous, child-killing centipedes that call Vanuatu home. Troost dwells merrily on kava--the narcotic suggested by the book's title--and cannibalism, the last "recorded" instance of which in Vanuatu occurred in 1969. Troost's first book was laugh-out-loud funny. Getting Stoned with Savages is not quite as good, but it suffers in comparison only because the author set the bar so very, very high with The Sex Lives of Cannibals. Troost is a likeable, self-deprecating, witty guide through the cultures and countries of Vanuatu and Fiji.

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Comments

1.

I loved this book. Made me laugh out loud. Check out my review at www.readthemandeat.com. Thought your review was great

2.

Hi, Tanya. Thanks for stopping by. I love your site (though I got into trouble when I just saw the URL trying to pronounce it Read The Man Dea... no, that can't be right).

So, folks, if you want another review of the book *and* a recipe for kava, check out readthemandeat.com.

3.

Liked your review; not having read his first book I'm really looking forward to tracking down a copy as this book had me in stitches, nodding away in agreement (I lived in a small Fijian village for 7 months - Vanuatu for him was like FJ for me). And he's right. Kava is horrible.

4.

Oh, the first is even better! You're going to love it.




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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.