Roz Rows 64
Guest: J. Maarten Troost
Recorded: May 6, 2010
Published: May 11, 2010
J. Maarten Troost, author of The Sex Lives of Cannibals
J. Maarten Troost is the author of Getting Stoned with Savages and The Sex Lives of Cannibals. His essays have appeared in the Atlantic Monthly, the Washington Post, and the Prague Post. He spent two years in Kiribati in the Equatorial Pacific and upon his return was hired as a consultant by the World Bank. After several years in Fiji and Vanuatu, he recently relocated to the U.S. and now lives with his wife and two sons in California.
J. Maarten Troost (b.1969) born in the Netherlands of Dutch-Czech descent. He grew up in Canada and currently lives with his wife, and their two children in Sacramento, California. He is the author of three travel books about his experiences in the Pacific Islands and 3-month trip to China. Troost writes about the part of his life spent in the South Pacific in Getting Stoned with Savages(2006) and The Sex Lives of Cannibals (2004) -- and one on a trip to China: Lost on Planet China: The Strange and True Story of One Man's Attempt to Understand the World's Most Mystifying Nation, or How He Became Comfortable Eating Live Squid (2008).
He has also written essays for The Atlantic Monthly, The Washington Post, and the Prague Post, the latter while he was a student. He has also been a consultant for the World Bank.
Troost said he’s motivated mainly by deadlines, and usually starts picking up his pace when he’s a month or two past his due date. Though now an accomplished writer, he finds writing painful.
Troost goes to Vanuatu to live on a tiny island called Tarawa that has no bathrooms. “There’s just a beach – you have pristine scenery with such a stench,” he said. “You run with that.” He was mystified that dissatisfaction with the “incredibly corrupt government never spills into something more serious.” But after a little time on Vanuatu, he discovered the reason for the islanders’ complacency. It’s not the sun or the sand—it’s the kava. “It’s like the heroin of the kava world,” he said. “Every evening the entire population of Vanuatu is stoned out of their minds.”
Vanuatu, a nation made up of 83 islands in the South Pacific, Troost immerses himself in the islands' culture, an odd mix of the islanders' thousand-year-old 'kastoms' along with imperialist British and French influences. This really means that Troost gets to live in a nice house while he gets drunk on kava; dodges 'a long inferno of magma and a cascade of lava bombs' at the 'world's most accessible volcano'; and checks out the 'calcified' leftovers from one of Vanuatu's not-so-ancient traditions, cannibalism. At the end of the book, the couple moves to Fiji so that Sylvia will have state-of-the-art medical care when she gives birth to their first baby. While modern-day Fiji provides little fodder for Troost's comic sensibilities, the birth of his son enables him to share some deeper thoughts and decide it is 'time to stop looking for paradise.' A funny travelogue with a sentimental heart, Troost's latest work genuinely captures the search for paradise as well as the need for home.
Getting Stoned with Savages tells the hilarious story of Troost's time on Vanuatu — a rugged cluster of islands where the natives gorge themselves on kava and are still known to "eat the man." Falling into one amusing misadventure after another, Troost struggles against typhoons, earthquakes, and giant centipedes and soon finds himself swept up in the laid-back, clothing-optional lifestyle of the islanders. When Sylvia gets pregnant, they decamp for slightly-more-civilized Fiji, a fallen paradise where the local chiefs can be found watching rugby in the house next door. And as they contend with new parenthood in a country rife with prostitutes and government coups, their son begins to take quite naturally to island living — in complete contrast to his dad.
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