Saturday, August 21, 2010

The Happy Isles of Oceania by Paul Theroux

Paul Theroux, The Happy Isles of Oceania. New York: Mariner Books, 1992. Large Paperback, 528 pps.

I've been curious about the dots of land in the Pacific west of Hawaii ever since I read J. Maarten Troost' The Sex Lives of Cannibals. I was delighted to discover Paul Theroux' account of his trip through Meganesia, Melanesia, Polynesia, and Hawaii. As he paddled his kayak around nooks and harbors, Theroux frequently listened to c.d.s of various artists. He met locals and tourists, slept out under the stars and in slovenly motels, recorded local stories about cannibalism, cargo cults, and missionaries.

Theroux wanted to go to the island Tanna specifically because the Jon Frum cargo cult was flourishing there [N.B. and is to the present day]. The followers of Jon Frum believe that he will return in a future February in order to rescue them from the ministrations of the missionaries. On the day of his return, the rich white people will be forced to leave Tanna. The missionaries wanted to rescue the natives from such evils as cannibalism. The natives yearned for rescue from the missionaries.

The Happy Isles of Oceania was a fascinating in-depth account of many islands and peoples. The mention of related literature left me with a desire to seek some of it out, the cargo cults' description resulted in my own interet-related. the foibles of the misguided missionaries and the remark that humans tasted like pork had me laughing out loud. Folks who relish the dream of a tropical paradise will do well to read this account of traveling throughout the Pacific in a kayak.

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