Thursday, June 22, 2017

Savages by Shirley Conran

Savages by Shirley Conran. 1987
It was a good day at the thrift store up north. My husband and I went on a mini vacation and while on our way home went to a Goodwill. I had walked in and commented that I hope I find a tiki mug. In the next 30 seconds my husband plucks a vintage pineapple mug that still had the top attached off the shelf. Well that was easy. I look around and see some book called Savages. I always look at books that sounds jungle-like just in case the South Pacific is hiding inside. I open it up to a map of Papua New Guinea and think that I am on the right track.

I see on the cover it says it is by the author of Lace. I recall nothing about it except it is was a mini series with Phoebe Cates and was suppose to be a bit salacious. For $2.49 I figure I can gamble on it.

This book is about a group of women who have to go on a business trip with their husbands to Australia, PNG and the fictional island off of PNG called Paui. There is a lot of backstory on these women and their family life. I kept getting them confused and no one has much of a personality.

Eventually they make it to Paui and do to some shady business dealings most of the men are killed when the women are off on a 3 hour tour. The women return in time to see their husbands killed and a military coup in action. They leave with the captain of their ship and try to survive in Paui until they can figure out how to get back to civilation.

Lucky for them their captain is a great survivalist and teaches them many lessons before of course he dies.

As one would suspect, there is some light sexual action since this is the author of Lace. The ending is a bit grim and not really the direction I thought the book was going.

Overall it wasn't a bad read and you could tell it was well researched. I might of learned a survival skill or two. I think it was suppose to be a mini series as well but I can't find any evidence that they filmed it.

In case you were wondering where Paui is.
Savages

I liked the illustrations for each part of the book.
Savages
Savages

Lastly, here is a nice article about the author who they call Queen of the Bonkbuster. 

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Tahitian-English Dictionary

Tahitian- English / English-Tahitian Dictionary published by Leonard Clairmont.

I had been looking for an Tahitian Dictionary for a few years and this one just fell into my lap. A friend who I buy many of my Polynesian records from just gave it to me, but he was unaware of my quest for it.

This is a very slim volume and by no means comprehensive. I assume it was aimed at the tourist to Tahiti in the 1960's but probably not super useful.







The table of contents covers the basics

tdintro
It does have some nice photos though

tdlady

tdtane
And does include some phrases you might need.

tdboat

And now I can say toilet in Tahitian! Fare iti






Monday, July 4, 2016

Secrets of Diamond Head by Denby Fawcett

Secrets of Diamond Head by Denby Fawcett. 2015

Diamond Head, what could be a more iconic representation of Hawaii? If you go to Oahu you fly over it, you can see it from anywhere on Waikiki Beach and cheesy books have been written about it.

Though the Secrets of Diamond Head by no means is a cheesy book. It is actually pretty wonderful if you want to know the history and see some really great historical images of Diamond Head through advertising and photos.

In addition, it contains a trail guide that is annotated, how the crater was created and history of Hawaiian and the military presence on Diamond Head. The chapter I found most interesting was about saving Diamond Head. It is a miracle that there isn't a luxury hotel or a condo on the slopes of Diamond Head but that is due to the energy many have fought to make sure that doesn't happen.

If you have never hiked Diamond Head here are a few tips:

  • Get there early! Like 7am early or else it is too crowded and too hot
  • Bring water
  • Wear comfy shoes and clothes
  • If you go on a Saturday, visit the nearby KCC farmers market. So much good food and drink there.

You can pick up this book thru the University Of Hawaii Press site.

July 2015, sitting on the balcony of my hotel, getting ready to read this classic.

IMG_7301

View from Diamond Head
View from diamond head

Friday, August 21, 2015

White Savages in the South Seas by Mel Kernahan

White Savages in the South Seas by Mel Kernahan. 1995

In my readings over the last few years about the South Pacific, I kept seeing references to this book. Some were dismissive of it and after reading it I can only surmise they don't like their idyllic view of islanders busted.

I greatly enjoyed this book. And since I like to focus on woman writes of South Pacific literature I found Mel to be quite the character. The first paragraph on the back of this book pretty much sums it up: 
White Savages in the South Seas is a book about Polynesia after the cruise ship has sailed, the jet has flown off into the sunset and the maitai curtain has dropped on a dream that was more performance than reality.
She has been visiting Polynesia since her first trip in 1959 and the book covers to 1992, which is a pivotal time period of change in that region due to the impact from the west. Before you had easier air travel, the amount of visitors wasn't so great. But then it all changed...

She starts off in Tahiti, going to the very first strip show in 1966. Apparently it was not a success.  You might think the book will just be a laugh but she quickly moves on to politics and nuclear testing that the French did in the islands. She does then lighten it up a bit with a story about Susy No Pants and dancing at the infamous Quinn's bar in Tahiti. I am always curious to hear about Quinn's since it is mentioned in many books and I have some LP's that were recorded there. It sounds like a total dive and kinda wonderful.

The middle of the book contains a depressing story of when Mel is back in California and stumbles upon a local spot visited by Tahitians who have moved here. Including one young girl whose island was pretty much destroyed by the nuclear testing by the French and her misery of having no home.

I was enjoying the book and then it really gripped me once she got the Cook Islands. I went to the Cook Islands on my honeymoon many years ago and always have an interested in them. Even though she was writing about the Cooks about 10 years before I went there, it brought back a lot of memories of what the islands were like especially with her part about staying on Aitutaki.

She has a chapter where she takes her dream boat ride on a cargo ship to another island. And then is sick as a dog due to a massive storm and seasickness. It is called "Damn you Robert Dean Frisbie". RDF is a legend in Polynesian literature which includes the infamous story of him tying his children to a coconut tree in a hurricane on an island in the Cooks. I too have a dream of taking a cargo ship to around to the island but now realize I would probably wind up like her, heaving over the side of the boat.

I will leave you with a quote from the book that really rang true for me and also would for those who love the "paradise" version of the South Pacific but know it isn't real. 

'Damn you, Robert Dean Frisbie', I say aloud, ' and all the rest of your motley crew of misfit dream spinners, including you, James Norman Hall and Charles Nordhoff; Beatrice Grimshaw and Frederick O'Brien; damn you Robert Louis Stevenson and W. Somerset Maugham - I wish I loved you less'...
 'Damn you for making such a glory out of unrequited love. Damn your  loneliness, damn your pain. Damn your longing, damn your books, your words, your sirens' words - which can be the only mates of people like us who yearn to belong to an image of the South Seas...'

Friday, January 9, 2015

In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex by Nathaniel Philbrick

In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex by Nathaniel Philbrick. 2000

On Christmas Eve, we were out seeing a movie (Big Eyes) and I noticed a movie poster for In the Heart of the Sea. I thought, "hey, I have that book in the Bibliotiki, maybe now is a good time to read it." I had bought this book years ago because I had read it was a true story that Melville based Moby Dick on. I do love non-fiction books based on adventure so this seemed right up my alley.

I should say my 2 top true adventure books are the Kon Tiki by Thor Heyerdahl and Men Against the Sea by Nordoff and Hall. Men Against the Sea is a gripping story about how Captain Bligh got forced off his ship and into a boat with others left to die. They didn't die and their tale of navigation and survival is a page turner. So I did have high expectations for In the Heart of the Sea going into it.

Philbrick did a great job with the research of this book. 40 pages of this book are notes and bibliography. It mainly weaves the two books that survivors wrote as the narrative, which I will be interested to see how the movie handles that.

It starts off with a pretty amazing opening chapter, survivors of the Essex are found by another ship and this is what they saw:
First they saw bones-human bones-littering the thwarts and floorboards, as if the whaleboat where the seagoing lair of a ferocious man-eating beast. Then they saw the two men. They were curled up in opposite ends of the boat, their skin covered with sores, their eyes bulging from the hollows of their skulls, their beards caked with salt and blood. They were sucking the marrow from the bones of their dead shipmates.

Let me say, if the movie doesn't open with that scene, it is a missed opportunity.

With that as the preface, you pretty much know what your in for. But it isn't all horror and gore, you get a lot of information about Nantucket and the whaling industry. It was just such a different time then our own.

The story in a nutshell is an inexperienced crew leave Nantucket to catch some whales, a whale then attacks their ship. The crew then escapes into 3 smaller whaleboats that are in various state of disrepair. They should head for Tahiti which is not that far but are afraid of cannibals (cue the foreshadowing) and decide to take the longest, most desolate route possible to South America.

Overall, it is a pretty amazing story.

Here is a link to the Nantucket Whaling Museum which has some artifacts from the crew on display. Including a skeleton of a 46 foot sperm whale. I have never been to Nantucket but now I kinda want to go.

And of course a link to the trailer for the new movie. Hopefully I won't sit thru it and go "it didn't happen like that in the book!" to my husband 400 times.

*Update, I watched the movie in June 2016. it is kinda of stinker. Looks nice but just read the book, it is 1000xs better.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Tahiti Holiday by Sydney Gorham Babson

tahitiholiday1Tahiti Holiday by Sydney Gorham Babson. 1943

I picked this up at the wonderful Powell's City of Books in Portland a few years ago on my first trip to Portland. I recall being overwhelmed by the breathe of titles they had in the Polynesian literature section. I guess my judgement must of been clouded that I choose this book. I know I also bought a book about headhunting as well, hopefully that title will prove a little more interesting.

My main problem with this book is, only about 1/3rd of it is about Tahiti. The rest of the book is about Bali and then a random collection of the author poems.

Poems.

Poems, despite having a best friend who is a poetess I have never been very keen on poetry. I blame too many Voodoo donuts on this choice.

It was signed so maybe that swayed my purchasing decision as well.

tahitiholiday2

The part of the book that does deal with Tahiti was fine, if I bit emotionless. The author went to Tahiti in 1938, the first part is written a diary style format so we get a day by day account. He leaves from Pago Pago then to Fiji. Gets stuck in Fiji for awhile waiting for his next boat. Then goes to Tonga which he enjoyed more then Fiji. Next up is Samoa and then he finally makes it to Tahiti.

Now the book goes from diary format to just travelogue. He seems to have your usual visit to Tahiti in the 1930's, goes to Quinns, gets the hots for a local girl, swims in Loti's pool, briefly meets Zane Grey but misses meeting James Norman Hall.

He does make it to Moorea but the excitement of Papeete calls him back to Tahiti. He did get to meeting Charles Nordhoff but had nothing to say about it except they shared a lemonade.

The few decorations by Dorothy Goodwin Blodgett are nice.

tahitiholiday4

Then it goes into his poetry inspired by his trip. He has a little more emotion over the local lady he had the hots for but that was about it.

Then the book goes into Bali and Java where there is much written about topless ladies. I did enjoy the illustration of the man with a huge leaf on his back as a rain coat.

tahitiholiday3

And then we get about 50 pages of poetry that has nothing to do with Polynesia, Bali or Java.

Can't say this is my favorite idem in the Bibliotiki. Since space is getting tight, it might be going away.

I did look up the author and did find some interesting tidbits. Copied from this site. 

Sydney Gorham Babson born 1882 at Brooklyn, NY; died 11 Jan 1975 at Hood River, OR at age 92.
He was graduated After graduating from Princeton in 1902 he worked for a time in New York City with Sinclair & Babson, wholesalers of Portland Cement, and then with the Vulcanite Portland Cement Company. Sydney and his brother Rea then moved to Oregon where they cleared the forest in the newly-settled Upper Hood River Valley. They planted one of the first commercial apple and pear orchards in the area. Sydney devoted his life with single-minded purpose to these orchards for over 60 years. In 1960 he was named "Orchardist of the Year."
 Sydney was also a writer. Among the books he authored were Tahiti HolidayGreen Wave of Mexico, and Complete Poems. His poem Verdun was published in the New York Times of 29 March 1917.

Well, next time I have an apple in Portland I will think of him.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Savage Harvest by Carl Hoffman




Savage Harvest by Carl Hoffman. 2014

http://media.npr.org/assets/bakertaylor/covers/s/savage-harvest/9780062116154_custom-2585a78349410c599b7c433ac6550e38062caa38-s6-c30.jpgA  friend sent me a text recently that she was listening to NPR and was grossed out by an author talking about cannibals in his new book. Once I figured out what she was talking about and that the region included New Guinea, I hunted down the book. I knew the name Rockefeller but only in reference to "very rich" and a book about the South Pacific that I already owned. I went home to see if "Man on his Island" was written by Michael Rockefeller but it was written by James Rockefeller, a relative of Michael's. I knew really nothing about Michael Rockefeller and am not that interested in New Guinea but what the hell, I'll read it.

It pretty much starts off with a graphic description of what would of happened if he indeed was killed and ate by the Asmat people. Let me say that again, a VERY graphic description. I wasn't quite prepared for that. But I pressed on and ripped thru this book pretty fast. I am a sucker for a true history mystery.

I did enjoy this book on many levels. I liked hearing about the research the author did on Michael and the time period. I think he did a good job setting the stage for the extenuating circumstances that were going on. I liked reading about the author and his interest in extreme cultures and how he actually immersed himself by learning the language and living with an Asmat family.

Here is a 3 minute video of an interview with the author and on location footage.

I would of liked to of gotten more of a sense of who Michael was as person. We knew he had graduated college recently and had two trips to the region to collect art for his father's new Primitive Art Museum. One problem is, this was 53 years ago and any remaining family or friends of Michael are not going to want to talk to an author who is once again digging up the headhunting story. It seems that the family believes the official story that he drowned.  Do they really need to believe the possible truth that some primitive men ate him? How horrible to think that happened to a loved one? Overall, a worthy read. Just a bizarre mixture of culture clashing, politics, art and lies.

To try get a little more of Michael as a person, I interlibrary loaned: Asmat by Michael C Rockefeller.


http://g-ecx.images-amazon.com/images/G/01/ciu/52/d4/4252124128a02f635be86010.L.jpg
http://www.robertgardner.net/staging/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/michael-rockefeller.jpgAsmat contains his original photos and journal entries. I skimmed the book and he does seem to have a sense of humor.

















I also interlibrary loaned Michael Rockefeller: New Guina Photographs, 1961 by Kevin Bubriski. These photos are from his first trip where he photographed the Dani tribe.










If you are in New York, you can visit the Michael C. Rockefeller wing at the Metropolitan Museum of  Art.