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Convince Us: Dark Star Safari

By Jess D'Amico in Arts & Entertainment on Sep 14, 2007 6:34PM

2007_08_star_safari.jpgWe know. It's the middle of September and we're just now finishing our August read, Dark Star Safari by Paul Theroux.

Safari was a little like a National Geographic video or a really long Nova special, informative and interesting but sometimes very, very dry. Theroux muses a lot, especially on littering and bad roads, things that are not surprising or necessary.

Although it did make the book more lively, our biggest affront to Theroux was his hatred of aid workers. At one point in the book, after being turned down for a ride by twice by white foreign aid workers, he says, "Aid workers in rural Africa are in general, oafish selfdramatising prigs and, often, complete bastards." He describes the system as self-serving and completely composed of foreigners attempting to "save" Africa.

Theroux first came to Africa as an aid worker, a Peace Corps teacher, which might be where some of his spite comes from. And while we agree that there is a lot being done inaccurately and that even some aid work contributes to unrest, it is not all. As for his proposition of no African involvment, when we lived in South Africa, the jobskills and aid organization we worked for was completely owned and operated by Africans. Also, we can't help thinking that Theroux's visit was a little self-serving, a re-evaluation of his life through his "dark star."

When Theroux does actually get to the "story" parts, a guide in Sudan searching for pyramids, his comparison of himself to Mugabe, a man feeding hyenas mouth-to-mouth, they are captivating and fabulous.

Overall, the mood and form of Dark Star Safari made us feel very much as if we were there, in Africa. Just traveling with an old, cranky, guide.

Next up, we will be speedy in choosing a book for the second half of September. Our theme is firsts. First novels, first short story collections, first loves, anything is game.