Thursday, September 18, 2014

More not-cranky travel writing

Been reading pretty compulsively since I finished writing THE MIDDLE OF NOWHERE. Over the past couple of days I read through J. Maarten Troost's GETTING STONED WITH SAVAGES (2006), a fun little volume describing a couple years that Troost and his wife spent in Fiji and Vanuatu.
This is an easy read. There may not be any big belly laughs in it, but you'll read through it with a smile on your face -- which is kind of odd, because Troost talks about stuff like cannibalism and headhunting ... and the importance of kava. Ah, yes.
Troost has a nice light touch, even when things get a little heavy. Like when his house is almost washed away in a cyclone. Or when he has to ask a tribal chief about cannibalism and headhunting. Or when various tribal factions in Fiji try to take power in a coup.
But it's always pleasant reading. Very pleasant. You can read the book in a couple of hours. Now I'm gonna have to track down Troost's earlier epic, THE SEX LIVES OF CANNIBALS. How can you lose with titles like these?
Troost is lighter than air compared to my travel-writing hero Paul Theroux. I'm currently 150 pages into Theroux's epic DARK STAR SAFARI, about traveling across Africa from Cairo to Cape Town. So far it's hot and dry and mildly tedious -- even though the book has probably the best opening of any of Theroux's travel books. The thing with Theroux is he has a great eye for detail, he finds great characters in his travels, and he's always happiest when he's miserable. So I'm sure it'll be worth the trip.
I read Theroux's THE PILLARS OF HERCULES awhile back -- it recounts a year-long trip around the Mediterranean Sea. I was in Greece and Turkey 20 years ago, and I wanted to see what someone else thought. Theroux had pretty much the exact opposite opinion I had -- he loved Turkey, hated Greece, thought Greece was way too touristy and stagey. Hmmm.
Despite that, Theroux's descriptions are so vivid and detailed that you can SEE these places he goes to -- clearly enough that you almost don't have to go there.
And believe me, some of these places you WOULDN'T want to go to....

Coming soon -- A Soul/R&B/Blues playlist....

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