Sunday, August 22, 2010

Tahiti Landfall by William Stone

Tahiti Landfall by William Stone. 1946

I found this book in the early days of the Bibliotiki and probably paid too much for it. Upon reading this Tahitian slice-o-life tale, I thought it was kind of a snooze. Mr. Stone talks about moving to Tahiti and his two live in helpers Teuru and her brother Tavae. Teuru is a teenage girl who appears topless in some of the photos included in the book. I did like that Quinn’s makes an appearance but if you are living in Tahiti in the 1940’s it better be. Eddie Lund also gets a mention.

Each chapter has a small pen and ink illustration, some nice, some unfortunate. Actually many unfortunate.

And has many cheesecake shots, er I mean photos of the natives.

Strangely, when I was trying to find out more about this book I saw that it was made into an Ester Williams movie called Pagan Love Song. The strange part is, that a day or so later I found this movie on VHS for sale at Goodwill. While the movie is not so great and doesn't follow the book that close (maybe not such a bad thing), it does have Charles Mauu, who is a famous Tahitian actor and musician. The movie also has Rita Moreno, playing a young Tahitian girl, which is just odd.

Another interesting fact, is one of the photos included in the book the adze man was also done in velvet by Leetag who was Stone’s neighbor.

From the book Leetag of Tahiti

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Six Months in the Sandwich Islands by Isabella Bird

Six Months in the Sandwich Islands : Among Hawai'i's Palm Groves, Coral Reefs and volcanoes. By Isabella Bird 1881, 1998

I decided a while back that I wanted to keep an eye out for books by women who travel to the South Pacific. I kept seeing this book but it was always for more then I wanted to spend. I eventually found it in paperback for $4 at a local bookstore.

I started to read this while on our vacation to Kauai since she visited Kauai. I made it to about page 20 then spent the next four months reading it off and on. While it was an interesting book, sometimes it was a bit of a slog with the tiny type and detail.

Isabella was an unmarried English woman who liked to travel. She wound up in Hawaii in 1873 at age 42 at the advice of her doctor to help ease her depression and back pain. She explored the islands in a way that is not possible in modern day. She traveled by horse which at first we might think "ok, yeah, I could see that." But remember that the ladies where suppose to ride sidesaddle. I have only ridden a horse a few times, but sidesaddle just sounds totally uncomfortable. In Hawaii the women rode like men which she soon adopted and wouldn't you know, her back pain was greatly improved.

The book is composed of letters to her sister in Scotland and are incredibly detailed. Often with humor especially when she is crossing paths with native cockroaches.

Some chapters are totally gripping like the one where her and a local woman are crossing torrents on their horses. I can't belive they weren't all killed. Or her on trails on the palis with the horse. She found in Hawaii that it was perfectly safe for a woman to travel alone and she often did. She would just hang out with the locals, sleep with them and only speak Hawaiian. Total imersion. But of course in a book this old you will get some observations from her that aren't PC by modern standards.

She made it to Oahu, Maui, Molokai, Kauai and the Big Island. She loved to explore the volcanos on the Big Island.

One thing I found interesting was she was obsererving Hawaii before it was annexed by America but not that long after the missionariers took hold.

If you are interested in Hawaii history, this is really a fascinating book. Not too many illustrations though. She talks about taking photos but I wasn't able to find any online. They would of been great if they could of been included in the book.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

National Geographic October 1958

The National Geographic Magazine. October, 1958.

I LOVE National Geographic. My dad use to have a subscription that I would read when I was young. The last few years I realized that they sometimes cover the South Pacific so I started to pick them up when I found them cheap. At one thrift store the more recent ones are 50 cents and older ones are $1.50. I scored a bunch of old ones cheap at Half Price books the other year because the cashier didn't know how to ring them up. Then next time I went to that Half Price Book they had them priced at $7!

I not only love the NG for the in depth articles on the South Pacific but for the old ads and other articles.

I debated if I should include them in my Bibliotiki site since they aren't books but I think they still fall under my mission statement due to great articles and nifty illustrations

In this issue, you get an article about Iraq and Bryce Canyon. I have always wanted to go to Bryce Canyon and the nice photography in this issue only added to my desire.

I scanned some of the ads. I like this one for a South Pacific cruise and a dinosaur skeleton for a whole $1!

This page and half on Africa I really like. I would love to go to Ethiopia and eat. The ad for South Africa with the kid and the pot is kinda odd.

Last but not least is the article on Fiji by Luis Marden. Mr. Marden spent a lot of time in the South Pacific for NG. NG bills it as " The Islands Called Fiji- With 2 Maps and 33 illustrations, 28 in color."

I have scanned some rather nice color ones.

I love the house in this shot. The colors remind me of the paintings in Head Hunting in the Solomon's. The article starts off with a Captain Bligh's reference to sailing through Fiji and staying the hell away from the cannibals. My apologies for not scanning the photo of Sanaila, age 96, the last cannibal.

Of course the article talks of kava but also of Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philips visit, with a photo of them looking young and trim.

I can't imagine being a housewife in 1958 and reading this article and seeing the exotic photos, how it must of really felt like a far away mysterious land. I would like to go to Fiji one day but would probably be worried if I could get a wireless signal for my iphone while drinking a Miller lite. At least I have my old National Geographic's to take me back when foreign travel was more rare and real cannibals still existed.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Faery Lands of the South Seas by Nordhoff and Hall

Faery Lands of the South Seas by James Norman Hall and Charles Bernard Nordoff. 1921

After I read Lure of Tahiti, I realized that Nordoff and Hall were a big deal in the world of South Pacific literature. I picked up Faery Lands for $15, 1st edition, no dust jacket at a local bookstore. Being cheap, $15 is about as much as I will spend but I liked the cover and wanted to read something by the fellows.

This is the first book they wrote together and in a future post I will review their Bounty trilogy, which is really what they are known for.

It starts with the authors in Paris at the end of World War I, dreaming of going to the south pacific. Somehow they made this happen because the book skips right into them about to make landfall on the island of Tahiti. At that point the authors went their separate ways but had made plans to rendezvous at a distant date.

One thing that is totally charming about this book are the illustrations throughout it. The one called Landfall precedes
different sections of the book.

Also included in the book are about 29 sketches in the book that really give you that island feel.

I am also a sucker for when you get a little illustration at the beginning of each chapter.

Content wise, some of the stories were really great and some kind of a snooze. The stories that Hall wrote I liked a little better. This book is great example of classic south pacific stories, though. If you want to read it immediately (and see more of the illustrations, but not the sketches) you can read it on Google Books. Or perhaps you would like to listen to it, well you can do that here.

If you want to learn more about James Norman Hall, click on the official site about him. One day I will make it to Tahiti for visit his museum.

And lastly, do you have a spare $17,500.00? If so then you can buy the whole collection of their books here. If anyone wants to buy it for me, I will write you a very nice thank you note!

Monday, April 5, 2010

Lure of Tahiti by A. Grove Day

The Lure of Tahiti : An Armchair Companion Edited by A. Grove Day 1986

I found this at the used book store down the street (marked down 3 times to $4!). This was one of my earlier finds for my South Pacific Literature collection and would prove to yield much bounty.

This book introduced me to the world of Mutual Publishing based in Honolulu which is still in business and very active. It is nice to see when you are on vacation in Hawaii you can pick up some of their titles at the local store or gift shops. It is an inexpensive way to introduce people to Hawaiian/Polynesian culture, since most of their book are paperback.

The Lure of Tahiti is broken into 4 sections: The Sojourners, The Travelers, The Missionaries and The Explorers. Each section has a story by a different author. It includes some heavy hitters of Tahitian fiction like James Norman Hall and W. Somerset Maugham. But also has some historical accounts by William Blight and Louis Antoine de Bougainville.

My favorite thing about these compilation books by Mutual, is that before each new story they give you a little background on each author. The other good thing about comps, if you aren't into the story you can skip to the next one.

Overall, it is a good collection and a great introduction (list price $5.95 from Mutual, still in print) if you want to get a taste of some classic Tahitian focused stories.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Beyond The Coral Sea by Michael Moran

Beyond the Coral Sea: Travels in the old empires of the South-West Pacific- Michael Moran 2003

After reading Head Hunting in the Solomon’s and her other book I got on a Papua kick. This book was sitting on the shelf at work on day and caught my eye. How could I pass up a cover like that.

Plus, since the other 3 books I had read about the region took place between the 1920’s- 1960’s I was interested in a more recent perspective.

I enjoyed the history of lesson of the region, who knew Germany owned so many islands and probably the most memorable part of the book for me was his brief mention of Errol Flynn.

I had honestly never given Errol Flynn much thought in my life, maybe I had seen a movie by him but probably not. But after reading about how Tasmanian born Flynn came to Rabaul in 1926 at the age of 17 to teach the locals about personal hygiene. While he was there he wound up running a plantation, buying a local 14yr old girl, and wresting crocodiles. All this made me want to read next Flynn’s autobiography “My wicked, wicked ways.” Which turned out to be the most entertaining, unbelievable thing I have read all year.

But back to Moran’s book. Of course he covers cannibals, missionaries and colorful explorers to the region. The book is humorous and educational. Also includes a good amount of black & white and color photos.

Even if you are just vaguely interested in the region, I highly recommend this entertaining and approachable book. Since it is in paperback, it would be an ideal book for a plane trip since it is a quick read.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Headhunting in the Solomon Islands & New Guinea Headhunt by Caroline Mytinger


NEW GUINEA HEADHUNT by Caroline Mytinger, 1946

Awhile back I came down with a nasty cold. I called in sick for many days and decided I needed to read something different. The majority of the books in the Bibliotiki are written by men but a few years ago I picked up Headhunting in the Solomons, which is written by a woman and I thought I needed a change of perspective.

I wasn’t ever really interested in New Guinea, Solomon Islands or even Melanesia but I kept seeing this book in a few stores so I found a hardback copy for $2 and the price was right. I still need a dust jacket though.

I knew nothing about Caroline Mytinger and just started reading it. And then couldn’t stop reading it. Reading about her bouts with malaria made my bad cold suddenly seemed not so bad.

The book is a non-fictional account about a former society girl and artist and her friend Margaret go off to the Solomon Islands to paint portraits of the last remaining pure bred people before they are all gone or blood lines become diluted. I would think when they went in the 1930’s, this was not something people though or even cared about.

They started in San Francisco, then to Hawaii, Fiji, Australia and then the Solomons'. And as with all best laid plans, things went awry. They did get some portraits painted though. The book includes just black and white prints, which doesn’t do justice to the colorful paintings.

After I finished Headhunting, I then moved on to her second book New Guinea Headhunt, which was more of the same only in New Guinea. (full disclosure, New Guinea Headhunt I don’t own and had to get from the library).

Since these books were written in 1940’s, they of course are not politically correct by 2010 standards but I did think in comparing it to other books I have read from that time period, they don’t just lump all the “savages” together and do make a conscious effort not stereotype them or think they are ignorant or dumb just because their way of life is so different then the authors.

While I was finishing the book, my husband started doing some research on it and what we found made me even more interested in the author and story.

First we found this site is done by 2 women who have retraced the books and are working on a film of it. Check out the footage they have on their site, plus their own websites show what amazing photographers they both are.

These women also wrote an article that appeared in the Smithsonian, which you can read online:

And lastly here is a link to Caroline’s paintings at the Phoebe Hearst Museum in Berkeley, CA

Sadly, it appears that the painting aren’t on view.

I love both books pen and ink illustrations, here are some examples.

After reading both books I am amazed that any of the paintings even survived. I found Headhunting more engrossing and New Guinea not as good. I think her weariness shows through in the second book. But overall both books are great stories about strong, independent women. And of course what happens to people who are ahead of their times, when they came back to the states with their paintings, no one cared that much.

Headhunting might be on of my fave books in the Bibliotiki, so much so I think I need to re-read it again.

Sunday, March 7, 2010


But first, before you get too comfortable lets have a look at our history. The Bibliotiki, first established in 2005 started as a small collection of South Seas Literature. Pretty much just consisting of Kon Tiki and Aku-Aku, the collection quickly grew via garage sales, thrift stores and bookshops.

In early 2007, Alohatiki rehauled her yet unnamed tiki room for the books where oozing all over the house and she soon forgot what she actually owned. When accidentally buying a second copy of Typee (she actually needs Omoo) she realized the need for her growing collection to be housed in one area and organized. And of course she needed a name. The books where then reorganized along with the growing tiki mug collection by island group (the books, not the mugs). A name for the room, with much brainstorming from Kahuna (he acquires many books for the collection), The Bibliotiki was born. But it then stalled to finally get kick started again when Alohatiki realized she was having trouble recalled what she had read already.

In this site Alohatiki, will highlight her collection and perhaps some other titles that she can only find via Inter Library Loan.

Two things she loves about the collection is some of the nifty covers/illustrations and that many of the books are from the 1920s/1930s for that look into the island before they became overrun with gangsta rap and video cassettes.

We hope you enjoy and feel free to comment or suggest titles via comments or alohatiki AT gmail DOT com

Thank you,

The Management