Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Headhunters on My Doorstep

Facing one’s inner demons sometimes requires a journey that is both mental and physical. For J. Maarten Troost, travel memoirist, the demon was drink and the journey one parallel with Jekyll/Hyde author Robert Louis Stevenson, whose travels took him away from western civilization into the vast Pacific of the soul. With a title like HEADHUNTERS ON MY DOORSTEP, one conjures, at first, the image of savages coming for a visit, but here the true savages are the illusions spun by Mad Men in their cagey offices, lit by artificial light, where from numerous bottles pour the elixir of intoxicating deceit. Stevenson was a tale spinner too, but of a quite different kind, and Troost’s quest was to discover why he chose Samoa to end his days instead of London or Australia or even New Zealand. Discovering that answer puts one in perspective of life itself, as the old romantic world of adventure slowly slips under the waves, just as the island atolls which are now being inundated due to global warming and overpopulation. What’s left of imagination, after all, in our world of 3D fantasies engineered by supercomputer, and supported by cartoon superheroes sporting junk food logos? Is there a Treasure Island left, or has it too succumbed to gaudy hotels, taxis, and all-you-can-eat buffets? Troost, who has lived in Kiribati, Fiji, and Vanuatu (among other places), attempts to answer Stevenson’s riddle of “here he lies where he longed to be” in the most personal way one can: by stepping in the writer’s shoes and exploring what is left of the lost horizon on the vast backwater of a Hollywood lot. Tour guide is the inimitable Simon Vance, reading a memoir that is both insightful and delightful in its mastery of language and fearless, unblinking honesty. Previous books by the author (whose provocative titles should not be taken literally) include the funny tomes The Sex Lives of Cannibals and Getting Stoned with Savages



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