by Aishe | 2/15/2014
" So, I picked up this book, thinking, well, I'm not expecting too much from this, since it's written by a Haole, who is not from the Islands, but it could be interesting. The premise was promising, and I happened to have another book by the author on my shelf, strangely, but also unread. So, I picked it up. I was pleasantly surprised by the writing, and the stories drew me in, but that was just schadenfreude on my part, I do believe. I like the way the author writes; he has good flow and the hotel setting makes for some racy stories. However, I found the portrayals of the residents of the hotel and the islands was caricature, and that really disappointed me. My deepest fears were, unfortunately, not unfounded. Maybe this is a memoir based on actual people the author has encountered, or maybe he was writing in such a way as to encourage its conversion to a major motion picture. To me, I felt Theroux was just another Bronislaw Malinowski, whom he mentions in the book, by the way, or a Herman Melville, "peeping at Polynesians." He reinscribes "the other." After reading this novel, I felt dirty. I was somehow complacent in his characterizations, merely by reading them. Frankly, I felt disappointed. The writer is obviously talented, and yet his cast could have come from early Hollywood. They were much more fleshed out than the caricatures of alluring island beauties, dragon ladies, and middle Americans we generally see in cinema, however, they do nothing more than reinforce such images. There was a paternalistic view of these backward Islanders, whose Island mentality and culture made the narrator and his other main-lander buddy feel as if they were on a different planet. The impressions of Paradise presented by Theroux is one of savagery, where civilized folks come to escape their civilization and live fantasies, because on these islands anything and everything goes. I've never been to Hawaii, but I have lived in different parts of the continental U.S., and I seriously doubt it is more unseemly or more backward than anywhere else. In the end, I finished the book to be rid of it, but I truthfully had a hard time thinking of how to properly divest myself of this book. I would feel somewhat ashamed to give it away to anyone I know, and somehow responsible if I gave it to some stranger or no, who might believe some of this garble to be truth. I also felt betrayed by the author, because I think he could have written this hotel into existence anywhere and made all the characters white and it would have been just as entertaining and so much less damaging on the psyche. I am not going to spell out the caricatured cast here because I feel it would be spoiler material, but I am not sure I want to read the other Theroux novel on my shelf. It's not so much a waste of brain cells as a waste of time and threatens to fill me with more frustration and disappointment if it, too "others" all the people in it. I am really not into neo-colonial pseudo travelogues. I feel like kicking myself--I should have judged this book by its cover and title and left well enough alone. "