Reviewing Twain and Troost at World Hum


My sister, Kristin Van Tassel, has reviewed some new travel books for World Hum in recent weeks, including Mark Twain: On Travel, edited by Terry Mort; Mark Twain’s Helpful Hints for Good Living: A Handbook for the Damned Human Race, from the University of California Press; and J. Maarten Troost’s Getting Stoned With Savages.

Kristin shares a similar opinion to mine regarding the Troost book: It’s funny, but not quite up to the level of this first book about the tropical Pacific, The Sex Lives of Cannibals:

“Cannibals” established Troost as a hootingly funny travel writer. His sequel is similarly amusing — complete with his trademark, third-person “abstracts” at the beginning of each chapter. …But certain events covered in “Getting Stoned With Savages,” including the birth of Troost’s first child about three-quarters of the way into the narrative, as well as 9/11, the bane of every humor writer, do not fit as successfully into the lighthearted tone, making the narrative feel awkward in places.

Troost does a particularly good job of integrating history into his contemporary travel tale, offering interesting information about a region in the world few readers know well. The usefulness of the history, however, does not fully compensate for the absence of a strong story. “Stoned” does not have the coherence of Troost’s first book, possibly because Vanuatu and Fiji lack both the relentless idiosyncrasies and profound solitude of Kiribati—essential elements in holding together Troost’s earlier narrative.

Kristin’s review of the Twain books is online here; Troost review online here.

Posted by | Comments (1)  | September 20, 2006
Category: Travel Writing

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