Book Review: Sex Lives of Cannibals

Occasionally, we here at Gadling will do wee little book reviews for titles that strike our fancy. Nothing too grandiose, just a friendly recommendation when we find titles we like. There are quite a few excellent titles out there right now from ranging from hard core adventure stuff to funny slice-of-life stories by up and coming writers.

I just turned the last page on a book that gave me one of those deep belly laughs you rarely get while reading a book, let alone something in the travel genre, where stories range from the stodgy, acerbicness of Paul Theroux to the anything but funny, but wildly captivating adventure disasters like John Krakauer’s Into Thin Air. Yes, there have been some wonderfully witty books out in the last few years like, well, anything by Bill Bryson, or Tim Cahill, but most stuff is just not that funny.

Add to those that ARE funny, then, J. Maarten Troost’s the Sex Lives of Cannibals. It tells the story of Troost, who at 26 moved with his girlfriend to the far-off island of Tarawa, a remote South Pacific island in the Republic of Kiribati (which, to my surprise, is apparently pronounced Kir-ba-wa). Troost’s writing is elegant and rich, but wickedly funny. Think a mixture of Eric Hansen and Dave Eggers (the latter of whom, it seemed to me, had influenced Troost’s style). Tarawa is polluted, smelly and scarce of almost all the daily pleasures and contrivances we’ve come to enjoy as of a modern society. But what Tarawa does have is its tropical isolation, and from this simple quality, comes most of the odd and often miserable, situations Troost finds himself in. From his experiences with the local peeping Toms who spy he and his wife through their windows to the deranged beachcomber “Half-Dead Fred”, Troost peppers the book with one ridiculous scene after another, but after two years, when you think he’s had enough and can’t wait to return to the modernity of the US, he reflects on how much a tropical paradise he found, and then heads off with his wife to Fiji, where, it turns out, he ends up writing the book itself.

I loved this book and basically finished it in two days. It’s a great carry along if you’re doing any traveling this winter, and if you’re like me, it will make you consider bailing on your 9-5 gig for coconut trees and fish addled reefs.