October 1, 2008

One of the funniest books I've read in quite some time, or - A summary of hundreds of things I would never in my life choose to experience

I've seen this book around for a number of years (again entranced by its very enticing cover and title) and finally hunted it down at the library.  

I am happy to say that The Sex Lives of Cannibals by J. Maarten Troost is seriously one of the funniest books I've read in a long time.  Perhaps ever.  

This was yet another laugh out loud reading situation, and I can only thank my lucky stars that I never ventured into a public place with this novel, such as when I loudly and awkwardly guffawed my way through Anthony Bourdain's Kitchen Confidential and Bill Bryson's A Walk in the Woods on very crowded rush hour trains during last year's Commute from Hell.  

Right away I felt a deep affection for Mr. Troost as a result of his remarks about his career confusion and complete non-interest in relegating himself to the doldrums of an office for the rest of his life.  Mr. Troost, I think we could be buddies.  

He is also flat out funny.  

In short, after a bit of traveling and successful attainment of a graduate degree in international relations, Troost moves to Tarawa, a teeny tiny atoll in the Equatorial Pacific, with his girlfriend Sylvia, who has taken a position as country director for the Foundation for the People of the South Pacific.  

Hilarity follows as Troost and Sylvia adjust to life on a miniscule island where dogs are considered a tasty alternative to the monotony of a fish diet, and the lagoon is the public toilet of choice.  

What more, Troost can actually write!

Suffice it to say I was extremely impressed.  Troost manages to attain an elusive combination of literary ideals - one which merges quality writing, a clear and orderly plot, vivid descriptions and laugh out loud humor.  

I was particularly entertained by Chapter 14:  "In which the Author explores the World of Dogs on Tarawa, particularly the world of his dogs, who grew up to be the Biggest Dogs on Tarawa, possibly because he fed them, which led him to look upon his dogs in a  different light, particularly when the dogs were described as kang-kang (tasty)."

(See, even his chapter names are funny!)

A brief expert from aforementioned Chapter 14:

Soon, Brown Dog developed into a big, fleshy, meaty dog.  Tiabo was much impressed.  She appraised Brown Dog with a knowing eye.  "I think Brown Dog will be kang-kang," she said.
"Really?"  I said, examining Brown Dog a little more closely.  She was a good-looking dog, unaffected b the mange.  "You really think she'll be a tasty dog?"
"We like the brown dogs," she said.  "Fat brown dogs."
Hmm...I wondered.  I was mighty tired of fish.  Cows are large mammals, I thought.  Coles have doleful eyes.  Cows are presumably intelligent creatures.  I would have eaten a cow, if there happened to be one within three thousand miles of Tarawa.  Why not a dog?  A healthy dog?  A fat, brown dog?  I fed Brown Dog a little extra.  Just to preserve our culinary options.

OK, so the PETA-supporters out there might be up in arms and bemoaning the fate of the dogs on Tarawa, and voodoo-dolling me for finding this passage funny.  

But it is.  
(And PETA people are crazy anyway.)

Maybe you have to read the whole chapter within the context of the book, but take my word for it.  It's funny.  (And it's not just because I rejoiced to see that Troost shares my belief that Americans are disgustingly sappy with their pets and that there is something disturbingly wrong with our society when it treats slobbery four-legged creatures better than their human children.)

But I digress.

I also just want to point out how impressed I was by the fact that, not only did Troost and Sylvia not kill each other during two years on an un-airconditioned island in the middle of equatorial nowhere, but their relationship actually flourished enough to prompt them to inhabit another isolated locale later on.  I am tres impressed by this (pre)conjugal fortitude.   

I'm grateful that Troost didn't get enough adventure the first time around, because I'm already looking forward to reading his next two books, which focus on his time in Fiji and China. 

No comments: