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The Bird Man and the Lap Dancer


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Table of Contents

1. Arlette and Madame Perruche
2. Life at the Grand Hotel
3. Listening to the Kava
4. Night Fishing with Nahimah
5. Life Lessons from Dying Strangers
6. Cooking with Madame Zoya
7. The Bird Man and the Lap Dancer
8. Three Nights on the Mountain
9. The Ghost Wind


About the Author

Eric Hansen lives in San Francisco, but over the last twenty-five years he has traveled throughout Europe, the Middle East, Australia, Nepal, and Southeast Asia. He is the author of Stranger in the Forest, Motoring with Mohammed, and Orchid Fever. His articles, photographs, and reviews have appeared in The New York Times, National Geographic, Travel & Leisure, Cond? Nast Traveler, and Outside magazine, among other publications worldwide. He can be reached at ekhansen@ix.netcom.com.


The best, most enduring travel writers don't invite readers to merely view vistas through other eyes, but take the trip further, deep into the psychology of place. Hansen (Stranger in the Forest; Motoring with Mohammed) does just that in this lyrical collection that is equal parts travelogue, memoir and anthropological treatise. He details explorations from his 20s, 30s and 40s (he's now 57), all of which are compelling, surprising and utterly memorable. Though some are set in Europe, most take place in distant, alluring places in Asia and the South Pacific. "Night Fishing with Nahimah" recalls Hansen's extended 1977 trip to the Maldives Islands near Singapore, where he journeyed to smuggle fish from the islands to the mainland. In the Maldives, he encountered an island paradise awash in contradictions, devoutly Muslim yet devoid of sexual inhibitions. (Hansen also nearly died there from severe hepatitis.) "Listening to the Kava" takes him to the outer islands of Vanuata, where he partakes of a hallucinogenic drink with local men. "Life at the Grand Hotel" evokes Hansen's months-long stay on Thursday Island in the Pacific after the prawn trawler he was working on nearly capsized in a storm. The wild goings-on at the seedy little hotel are hilarious, poignant and distinctly of another era. But Hansen's most enthralling tale is "Life Lessons from a Dying Stranger," about how, while negotiating Calcutta's bureaucratic maze for shipping large packages, Hansen volunteers at Mother Teresa's "Nirmal Hriday" (Home for Dying Destitutes). This haunting vignette alone makes this magical book worthwhile. Agent, Joe Spieler Agency. (Oct. 12) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.

In his exuberant collection of writings, Hansen recalls his encounters with myriad unique and fascinating people, none of whom are famous but all of whom still lead lives of quiet importance. There is, for example, the birdlike elderly Russian woman once associated with the cream of European ballet society who now exists with sewer rats and street thugs in one of the worst parts of Manhattan. There are the inhabitants of the Grand Hotel on Thursday Island, Australia, who live a bawdy, colorful life in one of the most beautiful places on Earth; the residents of Mother Teresa's Home for the Dying Destitute; a lap dancer with lofty ambitions; and a beautiful Maldive Island woman who taught Hansen how to fish and make love. Readers will finish this book before they know it and will find themselves wishing for more of Hansen's world, full of hidden treasures revealed through vivid prose. Highly recommended for large public libraries. Joseph L. Carlson, Allan Hancock Coll., CA Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.

A San Francisco Chronicle Best Book of the Year"Three decades spent crisscrossing the map . . . have honed in [Hansen] a meticulous knack for observations and the confidence to describe what he sees in both bold strokes and fine ones. One after another, remarkable figures leap from these pages vibrant and alive." --San Francisco Chronicle"The kind of exhilarating read that awakens your sense of wonder. . . . Eric Hansen has a lively curiosity, a good eye for detail and a swift, engaging prose style. When he travels, he doesn't merely observe but plunges fearlessly into the unknown." --The Washington Post"Deft storytelling, flavorful prose, a canny gift for bringing characters alive on the page, a receptivity to all that is strange and unruly in our world--these traits make Hansen an extraordinarily pleasurable and eye-opening author to read." --The Seattle Times"By turns revealing, enlightening, and just plain fabulous fun. . . . A wonderful and satisfying read." -The Boston Globe"[There is] sheer lunatic joy to be found in these essays. . . . Hansen's curiosity, ability to meet people on their own terms and willingness to try just about anything make the experience fascinating. His gentle, straightforward prose and the fact that the reader truly never knows what will happen next make Bird Man rewarding reading." --The Miami Herald"[An] inspired collection. . . . These are heartfelt reports from the road, told with simple eloquence and gentle humor." --Seattle Post-Intelligencer"In his range, his clarity, and his depth of understanding, Eric Hansen is the match of any travel essayist at work today. To travel well is a rare skill; to write about such travels as well as Hansen does is art. The Bird Man and the Lap Dancer does more than entertain--it informs and transports the reader in a way that is second only to the experience itself. That's the sign of a master. " --Joe Kane, author of Savages"A riot. . . . Hansen has done things worthy of awe and jealousy." --Entertainment Weekly "The intrepid traveler can spin a good yarn, knowing how to go beyond the externals of exotic and not-so exotic locations to get to the heart and soul of a place. . . . Written with the lyricism, structure and knowing touches of a fine work of short fiction." --San Jose Mercury News"A real travel professional. . . . Hansen draws out-loud guffaws. . . . Unlike many world-wearied writers, Hansen avoids studied cynicism and forced sentimentality." --New York Times Book Reivew"A fine journalist. . . . The way he . . . builds both tension and pathos, is so touching that the reader is drawn into the story. . . . He's so good at descriptions of place, the magic of travel, and the mystery at the edges of the world." --The Oregonian"Eric Hansen a traveler's traveler--curious, imaginative, subtle, and brave. The Bird Man and Lap Dancer is the latest report from his life of adventure, told with typical style and verve. It should be read, enjoyed, and passed among friends." --William Langewiesche, author of American Ground: Unbuilding the World Trade Center"Moving. . . . Hansen writes [with] a resonance and psychological depth not usually seen in more routine travel narratives. . . . Each story combines nuanced portraits of memorable characters with lyrical descriptions of human fallibility and generosity . . . [that make] this heartfelt collection a magical and uplifting read." --The Economist"Eric Hansen's lovely book of true-life adventures is a gift. Few writers aspire to such honesty, or manage it so engagingly. A compelling read." --Bill Barich, author of Laughing in the Hills"Imagine the world of Joseph Conrad invaded by a real-life Rocky Horror Picture Show. But there's more to Hansen's stories than mere weirdness and wonder. Some of them are private memories, polished by time; others conceal parables. All are simply and beautifully told." --Tim Mackintosh-Smith, Yemen: The Unknown Arabia"Each essay [is] more fantastic than the one before. . . . Hansen's world is not just a world of romantic adventure, but a world of complex human interaction that a less-perceptive writer would have not been able to bring home. . . . If you want to be totally entertained by an exotic and bizarre cast of really cool folks told in a clear and enjoyable style, get a copy of The Bird Man and the Lap Dancer. It's quite a trip." --Anniston Star

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