So I’m finally back from Hawaii and somewhat recovered from my trip. Even though I flew regularly for work over the course of a couple years (to the tune of more than 200,000 frequent flyer miles), I have never been able to sleep on airplanes. In spite of relaxing in first class seats (those Amazon links should put me in the private plane stratosphere shortly, but for now, first class will have to suffice) I just couldn’t get any sleep. So departing Honolulu at 10:30pm on Sunday night and arriving home at 11:30pm on Monday night took a toll.
I did manage to get a fair amount of reading done. In the non-Hawaii-related-reading category, I finished Robbie’s Wife by Russell Hill, Loaded Dice by James Swain, and re-read Daniel Wallace’s Big Fish: A Novel of Mythic Proportions. Loaded Dice was entertaining enough and I’ve always enjoyed Big Fish but it pains me to say that I really did not care for Robbie’s Wife. This was the first Hard Case Crime offering that I disliked. More than half the novel was gone before there was even a hint of a crime, the ending lacked punching power, and the normal guy’s descent into murder wasn’t really believable. I love what Hard Case Crime does with their books, but really didn’t like this one.
But back to more Hawaii-specific reading…
I lived in Honolulu from March 2001 to December 2003 and was always on the lookout for a good history book of the islands. I just never seemed to find anything. So on this recent visit, I thought I would try again. But I came away unfulfilled. The shelves were full of texts, but they all seemed very specific. Several of the history books were PhD dissertations or similar scholarly texts about a particular time period or event. I just couldn’t find a general, introductory history. If anyone knows of one they can recommend, please let me know.
So I turned to fiction. I tried James Michener’s Hawaii: A Novel but finally cried uncle after 200 pages. I must admit that I’m not very knowledgeable about Michener’s work so maybe I’m missing the boat. But with passages such as
At other times gigantic pressures would accumulate beneath the rupture and with unimaginable violence rush through the existing apertures, throwing clouds of steam miles above the surface of the ocean. Waves would be generated which would circle the globe and crash upon themselves as they collided twelve thousand miles away. Such an explosion, indescribable in its fury, might in the end raise the height of the subocean island a foot.
and with references to the bosom of the sea and the agony of rocks and the hellish internal prison of the Earth’s core and an “infinitesimal speck of land” that marks “the great central void” I just had to ask aloud, “Are you kidding me?” As I said, I’m not much of a Michener expert, but this just struck me as a child pretending to be a comic book villian while armed with a thesarus. Overwrought, overwritten, overlong.
So I bailed on Michener’s Hawaii and turned my focus towards a more recent depiction of the island state. Chris McKinney’s The Tattoo and Bolohead Row both turned out to be engaging depictions of the other side of paradise. I wrote about these books in a bit more detail on Beatrice today so check that out. Also in a more recent depiction of Hawaii, there’s Kaui Hart Hemmings. You might remember her from my interview a couple of years ago. I loved House of Thieves, her collection of short stories. And her first novel, The Descendants is just as good. It’s due out in a couple of weeks so I’ll have more on that later. McKinney and Hemmings are both good places to start if you want to see about contemporary life in the islands.
And now I’m back to the grind. It’s tough to get into the swing of things at work when you’ve spent the last week swinging in a hammock on the beach. But I’m going to continue my trip into Hawaiian writing so maybe that will help ease my transition back into normal life.