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The Sex Lives of Cannibals: Adrift in the Equatorial Pacific    by J. Maarten Troost order for
Sex Lives of Cannibals
by J. Maarten Troost
Order:  USA  Can
Broadway, 2004 (2004)
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

I kept looking for the cannibals, not to mention their sex lives. Couldn't find 'em (except for the canine variety) but was nevertheless greatly amused (and often educated) by The Sex Lives of Cannibals.

J. Maarten Troost and his wife to be, Sylvia, moved to a tiny speck in the Pacific Ocean, the 12 square miles capital, Tarawa, of the thirty-three atolls which form the Republic of Kiribati. Sylvia worked as country director for the Foundation for the Peoples of the South Pacific, and Troost tagged along, in search of his muse.

They arrived at a flat coral island two feet above sea water, baked to a constant 100 Fahrenheit, crowded, sans electricity, running water, toilets, tv or restaurants. Disease there is rife - hepatitis A, B and C, dengue fever and intestinal parasites. Life expectancy is 50-55 years. There's no garbage disposal - everything, including human waste, is dumped in the ocean. It's a Paradise, literally floating in shit, where even the fish are often toxic.

The author shares his adjustment to a South Pacific lifestyle that's nothing like the movie. At the same time, he voices indignation on topics such as government corruption, over-fishing (not for the benefit of the locals), and the role of UN consultants. He explains the fascinating, egalitarian custom of 'bubuti', by which people can demand possessions from one another - so there's no benefit in acquiring them.

There's an inter-island flight on a plane held together by masking tape, and a perilous boat trip through a raging ocean. But Troost also swims with dolphins, basks in empty beaches, surfs and snorkels. He tells us that there 'is no place on Earth where color has been rendered with such intense depth, from the first light of dawn illuminating a green coconut frond to the last ray of sunset, when the sky is reddened to biblical proportions.'

Do read The Sex Lives of Cannibals, one of the best of its type of travel literature, informative and very, very entertaining.

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