MY TIME IN HAWAII: A Memoir by Victoria Nelson


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An ambitious and good-humored, if not always successful, attempt to blend personal reminiscence, travel writing, and historical fact into a cohesive whole. Nelson was a cotranslator of Letters & Drawings of Bruno Schulz (1988). The author, who arrived in Hawaii in early 1969 and spent several years there as a teacher and volunteer archaeologist, is at her best when describing the slightly raffish customs and characters she found on the island ""paradise""--a caf‚ where the ancient waitresses cackle obscenities to the male customers when women diners leave the table; an old man who, when asked about Ferdinand Marcos, answers succinctly, ""Ah, da crook!"" When Nelson points out that ""The combination locks sold in the general. . . store in Kaunakakai all opened with the same set of numbers,"" she makes a comment on the island's simple state in an offbeat and amusing way; when, however, she turns her attention to her own inner being, she frequently falls into New Age platitudes--talk of being ""reborn"" and of ""convulsions of grace."" Nelson devotes several chapters, though, to the Bishop Museum in Honolulu, using its three floors of exhibits to comment on the history of the islands from pre-Cook to post-WW II. Many of her observations here are insightful, especially when she analyzes the Pacific island works of Twain, R.L. Stevenson, and Jack London. A work that can be read with pleasure for the author's highly personal and sometimes funky reactions to a culture in transition, less so for her flower-child attempts at philosophizing.

Pub Date: Jan. 9th, 1989
Publisher: St. Martin's