Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Inside the Apple or The Sex Lives of Cannibals

Inside the Apple: A Streetwise History of New York City

Author: Michelle Nevius

How much do you actually know about New York City? Did you know they tried to anchor Zeppelins at the top of the Empire State Building? Or that the high-rent district of Park Avenue was once so dangerous it was called "Death Avenue"? Lively and comprehensive, Inside the Apple brings to life New York's fascinating past.

This narrative history of New York City is the first to offer practical walking tour know-how. Fast-paced but thorough, its bite-size chapters each focus on an event, person, or place of historical significance. Rich in anecdotes and illustrations, it whisks readers from colonial New Amsterdam through Manhattan's past, right up to post-9/11 New York. The book also works as a historical walking-tour guide, with 14 self-guided tours, maps, and step-by-step directions. Easy to carry with you as you explore the city, Inside the Apple allows you to visit the site of every story it tells. This energetic, wide-ranging, and often humorous book covers New York's most important historical moments, but is always anchored in the city of today.

Publishers Weekly

Most of this guide book is devoted to an exhaustive catalog of New York City history, beginning with glaciers' impact on the geography of Central Park and ending (161 chapters later) with the aftermath of 9/11. Not for cover-to-cover reading, this guide from a tour-guide/entrepreneur husband-and-wife team is best approached from behind, with the 14 walking tours that cap the volume; each highlighted site references the relevant chapters preceding. Considering New York's dense history, these tours offer something for everyone: the Greenwich Village tour alone encompasses the Stonewall Inn, considered the birthplace of gay rights; Jefferson Market Courthouse, the nation's first night court; and the house where Louisa May Alcott wrote Little Women. Not even natives know this much; even if they do recall the late-19th and early-20th century tenement laws meant to improve living conditions (chapter 84), they'll probably be surprised to learn where the city's first tenement is located (chapter 32). From the 1765 Bowling Green Park protest of the Stamp Act to the 1980 murder of John Lennon outside the Dakota Apartments, this extremely thorough sidewalk-level guide is rich with 20 years of combined tour experience. Photos and maps.

The Sex Lives of Cannibals: Adrift in the Equatorial Pacific

Author: J Maarten Troost

The laugh-out-loud true story of a harrowing and hilarious two-year odyssey in the distant South Pacific island nation of Kiribati—possibly The Worst Place on Earth.

At the age of twenty-six, Maarten Troost—who had been pushing the snooze button on the alarm clock of life by racking up useless graduate degrees and muddling through a series of temp jobs—decided to pack up his flip-flops and move to Tarawa, a remote South Pacific island in the Republic of Kiribati. He was restless and lacked direction, and the idea of dropping everything and moving to the ends of the earth was irresistibly romantic. He should have known better.

The Sex Lives of Cannibals tells the hilarious story of what happens when Troost discovers that Tarawa is not the island paradise he dreamed of. Falling into one amusing misadventure after another, Troost struggles through relentless, stifling heat, a variety of deadly bacteria, polluted seas, toxic fish—all in a country where the only music to be heard for miles around is “La Macarena.” He and his stalwart girlfriend Sylvia spend the next two years battling incompetent government officials, alarmingly large critters, erratic electricity, and a paucity of food options (including the Great Beer Crisis); and contending with a bizarre cast of local characters, including “Half-Dead Fred” and the self-proclaimed Poet Laureate of Tarawa (a British drunkard who’s never written a poem in his life).

With The Sex Lives of Cannibals, Maarten Troost has delivered one of the most original, rip-roaringly funny travelogues in years—one that will leave you thankful for staples ofAmerican civilization such as coffee, regular showers, and tabloid news, and that will provide the ultimate vicarious adventure.

Publishers Weekly

At 26, Troost followed his wife to Kiribati, a tiny island nation in the South Pacific. Virtually ignored by the rest of humanity (its erstwhile colonial owners, the Brits, left in 1979), Kiribati is the kind of place where dolphins frolic in lagoons, days end with glorious sunsets and airplanes might have to circle overhead because pigs occupy the island's sole runway. Troost's wife was working for an international nonprofit; the author himself planned to hang out and maybe write a literary masterpiece. But Kiribati wasn't quite paradise. It was polluted, overpopulated and scorchingly sunny (Troost could almost feel his freckles mutating into something "interesting and tumorous"). The villages overflowed with scavengers and recently introduced, nonbiodegradable trash. And the Kiribati people seemed excessively hedonistic. Yet after two years, Troost and his wife felt so comfortable, they were reluctant to return home. Troost is a sharp, funny writer, richly evoking the strange, day-by-day wonder that became his life in the islands. One night, he's doing his best funky chicken with dancing Kiribati; the next morning, he's on the high seas contemplating a toilet extending off the boat's stern (when the ocean was rough, he learns, it was like using a bidet). Troost's chronicle of his sojourn in a forgotten world is a comic masterwork of travel writing and a revealing look at a culture clash. (June 8)

Kirkus Reviews

Newcomer Troost nests on a tiny island in the vast Pacific, finding it strange and unappealing, though not utterly without its pleasures. The beer, for instance: one of the few ingestibles the island of Tarawa possesses that is neither odious nor toxic. A part of the Republic of Kiribati (known to the British colonial community as the Gilberts), Tarawa is a sliver of coral that pretty much defines the idea of remoteness. This spot at the end of the world was the center of Troost's world for two years after he followed his girlfriend to her posting on the island. No, he wasn't emulating Thoreau or Gauguin, just taking the kind of whimsical step a recent, reticent graduate student would consider when "flummoxed by what career to pursue." Well, Troost has found his calling in broadly humorous travel writing. He's a natural: he likes tumbling into the ditches of digression; he can evoke a place (Prague, in a digression from the Tarawa saga) with an ardor that will have you wanting to jump on the first plane; he's read his history (there is a sharp background chapter on the rancorous influence of missionaries, traders, and chiefly wars fueled by drink); he's no chump when it comes to the ironies and iniquities of politics; he can write an entire engaging chapter on the day the beer ran out in Tarawa; and he is capable of saying things like, "I was under the impression that only occurred in places like tribal Pakistan," or, "there have been occasions when toilet bowls have spoken to me. Don't do shots, they said." He can also laugh at himself, almost as often as the islanders do. Okay, so Tarawa is less paradise than purgatory, but hang in there-Troost will lead you to paradise, too. Lives upto the billing as "a travel, adventure, humor, memoir kind of book"-and a really good one, at that. Agent: B.J. Robbins

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