NOT A HAZARDOUS SPORT by Nigel Barley

NOT A HAZARDOUS SPORT

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Having been assured by his insurance company that anthropology was "not a hazardous sport" and that his accident coverage would not be jeopardized by a trip to Torajaland, Barley--Senior Anthropologist at the British Museum; author of Ceremony (1986)--set off to explore that remote area of Indonesia. What he discovered there he now recounts in a winsome feat of warm, wacky, wonderful tale-telling. Barley's newest is chockablock with memorable characters, from the swishy Godfrey Butterfield, an expatriate English teacher "cast on this distant shoal by the wracktide of . . .drink and pederasty" to the four Torajan woodcarvers the author brings back to London to construct an Indonesian rice barn in the Museum galleries. The quartet prove to be neo-Marx Brothers who soon discover the joys of porno flicks and the london Zoo (British lavatory protocol proves a bit more daunting; they can never remember to turn the taps off). Meanwhile, the author explores the Indonesian hinterlands via horseback, shank's mare, and jampacked, rattletrap buses and comes to love his Torajan hosts. His portraits of the people are refreshingly free of ethnological jargon, with his subjects coming across as fully rounded human beings, not scientific studies. Always on the look for inexpensive accommodations, Barley beds down in a series of fleabag hotels where the blare of transistor radios blends with the drone of countless mosquitoes. He remains cheerfully unflappable throughout his journey, whether facing a gaggle of obnoxious French tourists or a Torajan woman just back from Holland who, despite the heat, refuses to shed her status-raising fur coat. A fascinating tour through a little-known corner of the world, escorted by one of the wittiest guides around.

ISBN: 8050-0960-4
Publisher: Henry Holt
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