Savage Harvest by Carl Hoffman. 2014
A 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.
Asmat 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.