Said Maarten Troost in 2008 in an interview about his then-newest book "Lost on Planet China," which I'm just noticing today along with his now-newest book "Headhunters on My Doorstep: A True Treasure Island Ghost Story" and his 2006 book "Getting Stoned with Savages: A Trip Through the Islands of Fiji and Vanuatu."
As you may know, I'm addicted to listening to audiobooks to get to sleep. (I use this small under-pillow speaker so Meade doesn't have to hear it.) I have about 100 audiobooks, but only about 10 of them are really any good for falling asleep. I've listened to some of the books hundreds of times because they work so well for me, for various reasons. I need a gentle voice. Fiction never works because it's always read dramatically on these recordings and because if you drift away from the thread of the story and come back it's hard to reconnect. It needs to be interesting sentence by sentence and also out of context. One of the books that has worked — over and over — is Troost's "The Sex Lives of Cannibals: Adrift in the Equatorial Pacific."
Looking for some new sleepable books, I saw there were 3 other books — with the same narrator — and I bought them all.
The quote at the top of the post might remind you of the chapter about China in David Sedaris's new book "Let's Explore Diabetes with Owls," which I also use, in audiobook form, for sleeping, even though its usefulness for that purpose is undercut by the musical bumpers between chapters and, in at least one chapter, noise from a live audience. Unlike Troost, Sedaris isn't enigmatically bemused about phlegm:
I saw wads of phlegm glistening like freshly shucked oysters on staircases and escalators. I saw them frozen into slicks on the sidewalk and oozing down the sides of walls. It often seemed that if people weren’t spitting they were coughing without covering their mouths, or shooting wads of snot out of their noses. This was done by plugging one nostril and using the other as a blowhole. “We Chinese think it’s best just to get it out,” a woman told me over dinner one night. She said that, in her opinion, it’s disgusting that a Westerner would use a handkerchief and then put it back into his pocket.
“Well, it’s not for sentimental reasons,” I told her. “We don’t hold on to our snot forever. The handkerchief’s mainly a sanitary consideration.”