Skip to main content

Euphoria by Lily King: Sexy Anthropologists Writing Sexy Anthropology Books in 1930s New Guinea

Euphoria is, according to Lily King, "borrowed from the lives and experiences of [Margaret Mead, Reo Fortune, and Gregory Bateson]" but she "told a different story" about them.

fresh prince will smith hm

It's about three anthropologists in Dutch New Guinea in the 1930s: Nell, Fen, and Bankson. Nell and Fen are married but you sense there's STUFF there. On their way back from staying with a tribe, they run into Bankson, who is desperately lonely (and also the narrator for most of the book). The three form up into a tight group while Bankson falls in love with Nell, Fen does weird things on his own, and Nell really wants to interview just a few more natives, no for real this time, she'll stop soon. 

When, in the middle of reading the book, I realized it was heavily heavily heavily based on the life of Margaret Mead, I read a little about her. That little made me want to read more about her, so I'm indebted to Euphoria for that (thanks, book). But then it goes WAY OFF THE RAILS, which makes sense with the "told a different story" thing, but if you're going to keep things like your anthropologist protagonist lady marries a New Zealander and then has some intense chemistry with an Englishman in New Guinea whose brother shot himself under the statue of Anteros in Piccadilly Circus -- ALL OF WHICH HAPPENED TO MARGARET MEAD -- then maybe don't suddenly take a weird left turn at the end, y'know?

everything was making sense and now it doesn't

There are some damn great quotes in this book. It's more atmospheric than plotty, so you're hanging out with some anthropologists in New Guinea, feeling like maybe they could all get murdered at any time, because honestly, who just shows up in a small village and tells them you're now living there?

"Americans make such good anthropologists because they're so bloody rude."

King also knew that you can get AliceApproval with basically any sentence involving stars (#truth), and she has a section about the three anthropologists going down the river towards another village, and it's like reading an older travelogue when they knew you probably would never actually get to that place, because airplanes haven't become popularized enough yet, so they are going to describe it very clearly for you:

We passed through a long swath of fireflies, thousands of them flashing all around us, and it felt like soaring through stars.

tangled floating lanterns

Questions I have for Lily King:

1. Why darkly hint about Nell's pregnancy from when they were living among the earlier natives? Dark hints that NEVER get explained. This happens on more than one occasion. Fen also rants about his mother and DARKLY HINTS at things, and I had no idea what the hell was happening. I texted Alley, because she'd already read and reviewed the book, but this is as far as we got:

2. So. What's up with that twist ending, hm? 


I splashed around in the shallows and we looked at the stars and talked about death and named all the dead people we knew and tried to make a song out of all their names.

You know when you have a truly remarkable experience and you try to write it down, but you end up just listing things and it doesn't capture it at all? That's the above. So it sounds dry and whatever, but it's expressing the inadequacy of naming things without also talking about what you were feeling, something King touches on later in the book.

I like anthropology a LOT and I like thinking about cultures and why they are the way they are a LOT, so while this book was occasionally frustrating due to allusion rather than explanation, King remains an excellent writer who wrote a very good book with a very pretty rainbow gum tree as its cover image:

euphoria by lily king cover

"I think above all else it is freedom I search for in my work, in these far-flung places, to find a group of people who give each other the room to be in whatever way they need to be. Any maybe I will never find it all in one culture but maybe I can find parts of it in several cultures, maybe I can piece it together like a mosaic and unveil it to the world."


Popular posts from this blog

Harry Potter 2013 Readalong Signup Post of Amazingness and Jollity

Okay, people. Here it is. Where you sign up to read the entire Harry Potter series (or to reminisce fondly), starting January 2013, assuming we all survive the Mayan apocalypse. I don't think I'm even going to get to Tina and Bette's reunion on The L Word until after Christmas, so here's hopin'. You guys know how this works. Sign up if you want to. If you're new to the blog, know that we are mostly not going to take this seriously. And when we do take it seriously, it's going to be all Monty Python quotes when we disagree on something like the other person's opinion on Draco Malfoy. So be prepared for your parents being likened to hamsters. If you want to write lengthy, heartfelt essays, that is SWELL. But this is maybe not the readalong for you. It's gonna be more posts with this sort of thing: We're starting Sorceror's/Philosopher's Stone January 4th. Posts will be on Fridays. The first post will be some sort of hilar

Minithon: The Mini Readathon, January 11th, 2020

The minithon is upon us once more! Minithons are for the lazy. Minithons are for the uncommitted. Minithons are for us. The minithon lasts 6 hours (10 AM to 4 PM CST), therefore making it a mini readathon, as opposed to the lovely Dewey's 24 Hour Readathon and 24in48, both of which you should participate in, but both of which are a longer commitment than this, the Busy Watching Netflix person's readathon. By 'read for six hours' what's really meant in the minithon is "read a little bit and eat a lot of snacks and post pictures of your books and your snacks, but mostly your snacks." We like to keep it a mini theme here, which mainly means justifying your books and your snacks to fit that theme. Does your book have children in it? Mini people! Does it have a dog! Mini wolf! Does it have pencils? Mini versions of graphite mines! or however you get graphite, I don't really know. I just picture toiling miners. The point is, justify it or don't

How to Build a Girl Introductory Post, which is full of wonderful things you probably want to read

Acclaimed (in England mostly) lady Caitlin Moran has a novel coming out. A NOVEL. Where before she has primarily stuck to essays. Curious as we obviously were about this, I and a group of bloggers are having a READALONG of said novel, probably rife with spoilers (maybe they don't really matter for this book, though, so you should totally still read my posts). This is all hosted/cared for/lovingly nursed to health by Emily at As the Crowe Flies (and Reads) because she has a lovely fancy job at an actual bookshop ( Odyssey Books , where you can in fact pre-order this book and then feel delightful about yourself for helping an independent store). Emily and I have negotiated the wonders of Sri Lankan cuisine and wandered the Javits Center together. Would that I could drink with her more often than I have. I feel like we could get to this point, Emily INTRODUCTION-wise (I might've tipped back a little something this evening, thus the constant asides), I am Alice. I enjoy