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SLIPPING INTO PARADISE by Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson Kirkus Star

SLIPPING INTO PARADISE

Why I Live in New Zealand

By Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson

Pub Date: Aug. 3rd, 2004
ISBN: 0-345-46614-4
Publisher: Ballantine

Masson, seeker of animal wisdom and human truth (The Nine Emotional Lives of Cats, 2002, etc.), pens a love letter to New Zealand.

Apparently it’s a lot more than Canada in a better location or the place Peter Jackson shot Lord of the Rings. According to the author, this isolated land of do-it-yourselfers, home to four million unpretentious kiwis, is the last Eden, and Masson has found a home at last. He’s applied for citizenship in this antipodal paradise, where prehistoric rainforest primeval flourishes virtually outside his window. In the New Zealand woods, he rhapsodizes over the beautiful puriri, the mighty totara trees, and the friendly piwakqwaka, not to mention the moving call of the morepork. In addition to all the trees, birds, flora, and fauna, New Zealand boasts the natural phenomenon of Sir Edmund Hillary, whom our arborist-ornithologist-philosopher visits eagerly. Masson also salutes all things Maori, with perhaps a bit of equivocation regarding old reports of cannibalism. He provides a suggested itinerary (“follow the route to Titirangi”) to locate some of the pleasures of “Godzone Newzillan” (that’s God’s own New Zealand to you outlanders), from Hot Water Beach to the best falafel in the country. Another plus, declares the author: there are no public intellectuals in New Zealand. On the debit side, the suicide rate rivals Finland’s, people regularly spank their children, and the performing arts are a bit lacking—though Masson overlooks a national anthem that ranks as one of the world’s best. On a personal level, our far-from-shy scribe unabashedly honors his family and himself: in India, Masson recalls, “Pundits could not get enough of my questions and would speak with me in Sanskrit for as long as I could stay awake!”

A blissful travel book transfixed on a specially favored geography, and an intriguing chapter in the author’s ongoing personal history. (English/Maori glossaries; b&w photos, not seen)