Topical Guide 46
Tall Tales and True
A year later, he came chugging back into the bay full of tales of the islands and their women and the unusual clams that flourished there, Antigona lamellaris and Tapes literata. So seductive were his stories that they have been passed along from generation to generation. Even today, many a male Babbingtonian gets a faraway look in his eyes if the name of one of the islands in that area—say Pago Pago, Puka Puka, Rarotonga, or Disappointment—happens to come up in conversation.
Boating on the Bolotomy
The clamdigger’s tales could not possibly have been more provocative than the journal kept by Joseph Banks during his visit to Tahiti as a member of Captain James Cook’s expedition to the South Pacific in 1768. Quoting from “Extracts from the Endeavour Journal of Joseph Banks (1769)” in The Public Domain Review:
After landing on the island of Tahiti, Banks was soon to become an invaluable member of the crew by virtue of the friendly relations he struck up with the islanders; a mutual trust he built up through his openness, natural curiosity and fascination with their customs and way of life. . . . His experiences in his three-month stay on the island are recorded in his Endeavour Journal. The journal is unique in character, not merely in terms of its content but also, as the writer Richard Holmes comments, “for their racy style, appalling spelling and non-existent punctuation.”
“Racy”? Yes. See for yourself: you’ll find excerpts from Banks’s journal in this article from The Public Domain Review. If, after that brief sample of Banks’s “racy style, appalling spelling, and non-existent punctuation,” you want more, you’ll find a transcription of the entire journal at Wikisource.
Rarotonga; Arcadia; Shangri-La; Fantasy Land
Dreams of Rarotonga seem to have seduced not only “many a male Babbingtonian” but quite specifically Peter’s grandfather, Peter himself, and Ariane Lodkochnikov (the sultry older sister of Peter’s imaginary childhood friend Rodney “Raskolnikov” Lodkochnikov). The island plays an important role in What a Piece of Work I Am.
Clams: Antigona lamellaris and Tapes literatus
I think the Christensen sisters meant Tapes literatus, not Tapes literata.
Disappointment; Disappointment Island
Disappointment is definitely a theme. Many a muddleheaded dreamer or earnest screwball who sets out for Rarotonga, Arcadia, Shangri-La, or Fantasy Land ends up on Disappointment Island.
[more to come on Friday, July 16, 2021]
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