Unfamiliar Fishes

Sarah Vowell’s perky wink-wink-nudge-nudge “aren’t I clever” tone continues to annoy me, but she’s compiled a somewhat readable intro to the overtaking of Hawaii by Americans. Discovered by Captain Cook, the Hawaiian kings always deferred to Britain as their conqueror (also why they have the Union Jack in their state flag), appealing to the UK to protect them from the US’s rapacious grasp as the noose tightened in the late 1800s. Lots of pages devoted to the New England missionaries who attempted to establish a Christian foothold, and who created the written Hawaiian language with its plethora of “k” words. The tension between the missionaries and the sailors who stopped off for drinking, carousing, and whoring. Melville is cited as having worked as a pinsetter in a Honolulu bowling alley after deserting the Acushnet. As whaling declined, sugar became more important to the economy, requiring land and irrigation to produce the white gold. One pound of sugar requires 4,000 gallons of water to produce. I can barely choke down Vowell, but it was a quick intro read on my flight to Oahu. Clearly a book churned out as a way for Vowell to write off a few trips to Hawaii.