Friday, November 25, 2011

The Lymans of Hilo by Sarah Joiner Lyman

The Lymans of Hilo: A fascinating account of life in 19th century Hawaii by Sarah Joiner Lyman, 1979.
lymans cover
One day my husband was walking by a local bookstore and noticed this in their free bin. I looked at it but wasn't so sure I wanted to read it. I thought since it was by a missionary it would be pretty dry. I tossed it in the corner and promptly forgot about it for a few months.

Then we booked a trip to the Big Island for 2012 and I thought "don't I have some book with Hilo in the title?" I dug it out and googled it and saw that there is a Lyman Museum in Hilo you can visit. That sold me because I though if I liked the book, I might want to visit the museum while we are there.

Well, the book was pretty dry but interesting enough. Sarah married a man suddenly and 24 days later they were off on a boat to Hawaii in 1831from the East Coast. It is just amazing to me that people would just pick up and leave everything behind to go preach about the lord to the middle of no where.

The husband doesn't appear much in the journal, I think he was gone a lot. She was left behind to take care of the house and the 8 children (guess he did come back to visit).  They never visit the mainland again though many of their children moved there.

They look like a party, don't they?


It was interesting reading someones journal from their age of 25 until they died at age 80. There were some large gaps in the book where maybe there would be only 1 entry a year for the book isn't that long. They also included some letters she wrote.

It was fascinating to see how Hawaii had changed in that period for she does mention some of the politics.

It is a worth a read and since I have a special area in my Bibliotiki devoted to the South Pacific from a woman's perspective, I'll be keeping it around.

In a note related to the actual book but not the content. The book had some old recipes clipped and included in it. None related to Hawaii though neat to look at. They are from 1989, when I graduated high school but look so dated to me they could of been from the 1960's. It did make me think that clippings is just a bonus of a used book that you just can't get in an ebook.

clipping found in book

Monday, October 17, 2011

Waikiki Beachnik by H. Allen Smith

Waikiki Beachnik by H. Allen Smith 1960
waikiki beachnikThis a book I have been seeing around for years.  Have seen it on Tiki Central in the paperback thread, have seen it for sale in Hawaii for more money then I want to spend and finally have seen it in Seattle. On my birthday trip this year we met up with some friends in Seattle and where in search of coffee. For some reason we had a hard time finding coffee but it was finally obtained by the University where we also found a bookstore. And at this bookstore I finally got my copy of Waikiki Beachnik for the amount I wanted to spend: $4.38 with tax.

I didn't realized until today that I own another book by the author, Two-Thirds of a Coconut Tree from 1963 about Tahiti. For some reason I was confusing the author with another humorist from the same time period, Jack Douglas. They both seemed like older, curmudgeon type fellows with long suffering wives who like Polynesia so you can understand my confusion. I read Douglas' book: Adventures of Huckleberry Hashimoto 1965 a while back and still need to put it on on the Bibliotiki.

I actually liked WB better then the Hashimoto book and did chuckle out loud a few times. The book's format is set up as daily diary entries from November 23 to February 21. He lives on the east coast and it starts off with him getting ready to leave and everyone he knows tells him to look up "so and so" when he gets there. They have a stop in San Francisco on the way, which I enjoyed since I live here. He does make a mention that good Mexican food is to be had at the Fairmont Hotel in the Papagayo Room. Thanks to the internet I learn that this was a pretty famous place that all the celebs ate at.

Then off on the Matson line for Oahu. They lived in Hawaii from the beginning of December till the end of February. My god that must of been nice. For the majority of the time they lived at the Royal Hawaiian and then did a short trip to the Big Island. He spends a lot of time at the Moana Surfrider drinking and listening to Hawaii Calls.

One thing that I liked about Mr. Smith was that he loves Hawaiian music so he mentions a lot of what was going on in the scene then, though he is not a fan of Arthur Lyman. He is a bigger fan of Alfred Apaka. Here is what he says about Lyman:
The Arthur Lyman he mentioned is a young man with a weird combo playing a style of stuff that seems to have originated here in Hawaii and that features the sounds made by a guinea hen in agony, the squawk of a sick chicken, and the shriek of a peacock in childbirth. I'm told that this sick chicken type of music is catching on back home. My native land is overrun by pupule akuheads...
Ouch, I will never be able to listen to Lyman the same way again.

He does a lot of name dropping like Donn Beach and his steak restaurant on Oahu. I couldn't figure out what place this was unless they just ment the Don The Beachcomer restaurant. He also spent Christmas with Duke Kahanamoku, who he doesn't really paint that flattering a picture.

I always get excited when something I am reading references something else I've read. Smith meets the husband of Johnny Frisbie, the daughter of Robert Dean Frisbie, which I also need to include both his and her books in the Bibliotiki.

The book ends in sort of an abrupt way. The author is about to embark on a spur of the moment trip to Tahiti on a small boat but it doesn't work out and he is full of regret until later when a woman, Ann Brisbin who did go on the trip sent him her travelog from it and what a hell it was. Now her book, I would like to read.

The book does have some sweet little illustrations every now and then, but not too much.

detail from book

I wound up enjoying this book more then I thought I would and look forward to reading his Tahiti book in the future.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Tupaia: Captain Cook's Polynesian Navigator by Joan Druett

Tupaia: Captain Cook's Polynesian Navigator by Joan Druett 2011

This book is why I prefer to read non-fiction, because you just can't make this stuff up. This book brings to life a Tahitian who is largely forgotten in the history of early South Pacific exploration but actually made a huge impact.

The large amount of research shines thru in this book but doesn't weight it down. I actually found the book quite humorous, though usually at the expense of the ignorant Europeans.

I am amazed at what she pulled together of early Tahitian life since they had no written record.

In a nutshell, Captain Cook's first voyage goes to Tahiti where they offer Tupaia a ride to Europe. Along the way he pretty much keeps the local Maoris and Aborigines from killing them. And sadly, he dies a painful death in Indonesia/Batavia. I always find it so tragic that these boats will make it thru cannibal infested waters of Melanesia but then so many people die in the malaria and cholera wasteland that was the Dutch owned Indonesia of the 1800's.

Tupaia was a master navigator, high priest, artist, politician and translator. The cover of the book depicts one of his watercolors from the trip and he also drew a famous map of Polynesia.

I just wonder if the Maori's minds where blown when he showed up and they could communicate. It is very telling that their legends speak of Tupaia rather then Captain Cook.

I highly recommend this book for anyone interested in exploration of that area, it is a quick read and not too long either.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Yankee Whalers in the South Seas by A.B.C. Whipple

Yankee Whalers in the South Seas by A.B.C. Whipple 1954

yankee whalers

I picked up this book at a library book sale about 4 years ago. I was a little torn buying it since I never gave much thought to whaling but I did already own In the Heart of the Sea in the Bibliotiki, which is about a doomed whaling voyage (not read yet). But I looked at the map and thought it looked interesting.
yankee whalers_0002

This book turned out to be pretty interesting. It has 12 chapters of stories about ships, including some stories that overlaped. I learned many things like if someone died at sea they usually tossed you overboard but with the officers they put you in a barrel of rum to preserve you. Kinda gives new meaning to "aged rum."

In the chapter about wives and children on ships it talked about six year old Laura Jernegan who kept a ships log while her father sailed the Roman on October 29, 1868. The very cool thing about our modern age is her is a link to her log. Fascinating stuff.

I rather enjoyed the last chapter where we find out the author is completely obsessed with maritime history and drags his wife and children to museums and libraries. I liked this quote as a cautionary tale to other martime fanatics " ...the Seaport Store can be counted on to provide for about half and hour of uninterrupted research; whether or not it is an expensive half hour depends upon how well you have brought up your wife." hmm

I wasn't loving the illustrations in the book, not really my kinda style.

yankee whalers_0003

yankee whalers_0004

But I did like the cute whale hiding under the dust jacket.

yankee whalers_0001

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Breadfruit Trilogy by Celestine Vaite

Breadfruit by Celestine Vaite. 2000
Frangipani by Celestine Vaite. 2004
Tiare in Bloom by Celestine Vaite. 2006

We were on vacation in Australia when I saw Breadfruit at a local bookstore. I came back home and interlibrary loaned it since it wasn't published in the US yet. The author is Tahitian and you don't see many women Tahitian authors who wind up with a successful book trilogy. Sadly, I can't seem to find anything new the author has been working on and her website link doesn't work anymore.

The books are based on Materena Mahi the family matriarch and professional cleaner. She is raising a child, trying to get her drunk boyfriend to marry her and likes to sweep a lot. I wouldn't call these "chick lit" but they are on the lighter side of fiction. It does give you a interesting window into modern Tahitian society. I probably liked the last book the best because it had more of the male character which at times was a more interesting character then Materena.

If you are a fan of the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency then this is for you. Fun, light and exotic reads. Only wish the author would write something new!

If anyone has any good suggestions for contemporary modern Polynesian authors, please leave them in the comment section.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Castaway by Lucy Irvine

This book is a little out of my focus area of for the Bibliotiki since it is about a small island in the Torres Straights by Australia and within Melanesia. However, I do like to collect books by women authors for the collection. Though I usually don’t need them naked on the cover.

I also had to buy this book because it kept popping up in my life. A few weeks before our last Hawaii trip, we were in a small Californian college town and I saw they had a bookstore when looking for parking. This bookstore was a sad little affair where they hardly had any books but they had this book in hardcover for $4. I am kinda funny about the format of my books. For the Bibliotiki, if it is really old I like it with a dust jack and hardcover. If it is from about 1980 to present I rather have paperback. I prefer paperbacks since I commute on the bus and I am kinda tough on shoving books in my bag. I usually don’t like to travel with my older books since they are more delicate and heavier. So since this book was from 1983 and about Melanesia, I didn’t want it in hardcover. I told my husband this and he just called me cheap!

Flash forward a few weeks when we were in Oahu at a musty book and record store called Jelly’s. We were in Hawaii for a week and I had only packed one book. I have realized lately that I have been packing too many books for trips so for this trip I thought 1 would do me. It was a 450 page book but I was having trouble getting into it and was feeling a bit dumb not having a good book for my beach vacation. But there on Jelly’s shelf was a $2.98 beatup paperback copy of Castaway. The price and format were right so I suddenly had a beach book.

What a strange book. It is the nonfiction story of a British woman who accepts an ad in the newpaper for a man looking for a wife since the Australian goventment required this of them to live on uninhabited island. On the front of the book it says it was a best seller, I guess because she is always talking about being naked and there are some topless photos of her.

Also there is a great debate between her and her husband “G” about having sex. They had sex before they arrived on the island but then she didn’t want to anymore and he grew embittred and his health deteriorated. Not to imply that his health deteriorated due to lack of sex but I'm sure some men could make a case for it.

I must say if I had any dreams about being dropped off on a desserted island they where shattered reading this book. Between them running about out of fresh water to their near stravation and many infections, um no thanks. I’ll just stay at the Hilton thank you very much. They were saved by nearby islanders who adopted them once they discovered that G could fix their motors.

I found the book interesting until she broke down and finally had sex with him then it just got weird with all his sexual fantasies and their role playing. Ugh, please go back to talking about making your own fish hooks, that was more interesting.

While flying home from Hawaii we watched an old Hammer horror movie, the Curse of the Wearwolf with Oliver Reed. I am a fan of Oliver Reed so once we were home we were looking on netflix streaming and saw he was in a film called Castaway. Could it be based on the book I just read? Why yes! The movie was pretty close to the book as in she was naked a lot and G was a horny old bastard. Since it was Oliver Reed we did wonder how much was just drunken adlibbed.

This strange coicisdence had us learning more about Oliver Reed including watching a strange visit on Letterman and reading the book Hellraisers. Good lord those old British actors could drink.

Back to Castaway. Served its purpose as a good beach read and I got to learn more about Oliver Reed then I needed to know (a tattoo of a bird claw on his manhood??).

In closing, I do think it is ironic that G moved to this island to write a book about living on an island and here this young woman turns out a best seller were his book is like 1 cent on Amazon. Wonder how he felt about that?