Last week, on a suggestion from Megan, I picked up Getting Stoned With Savages by J. Maarten Troost. I've mentioned this before but I am currently aching to travel somewhere, anywhere, and I figured a foray into travel fiction might make me feel a little bit better. It didn't work, but I do like J. Maarten Troost. While I was in Texas I helped my dad take a big load of books to Half Price and he let me use the cash we got from that for a new book or two ($15 whole dollars, wooo!). So I picked up Lost on Planet China by Troost. I read both last week, which means that if anyone is keeping count, I'm totally blowing my resolution to read a book a week for a year out of the water.
So first, Getting Stoned With Savages. I liked this book more than the one about China. The author writes about his move to the South Pacific island of Vanuatu and all the hilarity that ensues. He's clever and rather droll, which I prefer to complain-y or ridiculously upbeat. He details the local culture, the people he and his wife meet, and basically what it's like to live on a third-world island in the middle of a large ocean. I really liked his telling of an encounter with one of the island's many giant centipedes.
Second, Lost of Planet China. This book I didn't like as much. It was much more complain-y and felt longer. I kind of had to force myself to finish the last 30 pages or so. Also, he sets out at the beginning of the book to visit China because he's thinking of moving there with his wife and children and wants to scope it out beforehand. Throughout the book, as he complained about air pollution, crowds, and the multitudinous food choices one encounters in an open-air market, I kept thinking how that would work with having small children and I'd find myself thinking "so are you going to move there or aren't you?!" Then, at the end of the book, he completely drops this aspect of the narrative and the book ends abruptly, with no real conclusion. I found it unsatisfying.
A note: I think people like to characterize him as the next Bill Bryson. I take issue with this for several reason. First of all, Bill Bryson is the only Bill Bryson. I think he defies imitation, as do most good writers who have found their niche and developed a healthy following of fans. Second of all, why can't he just be the first J. Maarten Troost instead of the next someone else? I don't like it when people characterize writers/singers/actors/etc. in that way. Third, he's not as funny or clever. He's just not. All that said, you should read Getting Stoned with Cannibals. If nothing else, reading the passage about the giant centipedes will make you laugh, and prepare you lest you ever find yourself in the unfortunate position of having to stare one down whilst on a jaunt through the South Pacific.