Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Savage Harvest by Carl Hoffman

I finished reading Savage Harvest: A Tale of Cannibals, Colonialism, and Michael Rockefeller's Tragic Quest for Primitive Art by Carl Hoffman. I brought the book after hearing the author interviewed on the NPR Books Podcast.

The book explores the disappearance of Michael Rockefeller along the coast of New Guinea in 1961. The story switches back and forth between the events leading up to Rockefeller's disappearance based on his and other journals and the author's current day attempts to unravel the truth behind the story.

The backbone of the book is the story of the Asmat people. The Asmat are an ethnic group residing in the Papua province of New Guinea. They inhabit a region on the island's southwestern coast bordering the Arafura Sea covering more than 7,000 square miles of mangrove, tidal swamp, freshwater swamp, and lowland rainforest. They were largely isolated from the outside world until the 1950's.

While the author is more than a little self indulgent in parts, this is a solid story. The book is worth reading just for the descriptions of the terrain; it is giant swamp along the ocean. Overall, I give the book a solid "B" grade.

Note to self, there are a number of items that Michael Rockefeller collected in the New York Metropolitan Museum, including a canoe and several bisj poles. I need to look for these next time we are there.

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