A while ago I wrote something about novels that really should have been short stories, in that they lacked enough plot to justify their length. This was a travel book that should have been a travel essay. Troost’s girlfriend is posted to the Pacific island nation of Kiribati as the coordinator of some agricultural humanitarian organization; Troost tags along and tries to write a novel, but seems to spend most of his time surfing and drinking Australian beer; much hilarity ensues.
Kiribati consists of 33 atolls strung out along the equator. It is overpopulated and hot, there is nothing to eat but fish, it has no working waste disposal arrangements so dirty diapers foul the lagoon, and occasionally the beer runs out. Troost’s meandering mixture of history, culture, and silliness meant that I never actually got why things were so bad there but it has something to do with the usual suspects: the British and the American governments, both of whom performed nuclear testing on some of the outlying atolls and took all the phosphate deposits, or something.
I guess if you find this in a used book store, or someone lends it to you, you might get a kick out of parts of it. It spent the better part of a month languishing on my night table, where I read it between starting and stopping other books. I finished it yesterday, a day I spent mostly in bed with a drippy cold, where the book’s lack of focus and lopsided humor kind of appealed to me.
(Book 2, 2007)