Saturday, January 22, 2005

Book Review - Emergency Sex and Other Desperate Measures

Emergency Sex and Other Desperate Measures: A True Story of Hell on Earth by Kenneth Cain, Heidi Postlewait and Andrew Thomson, Miramax Books, 308p.

This book brings together the lives of three young United Nations workers, a New Zealander and two Americans as they criss-cross the globe during the 1990’s from international hell hole to hell hole. It is a virtual tour of the failed states civil war and genocide from the past decade.

More of a diary than an analysis, the book jumps from the perspective to perspective of the three authors as they tell their respective stories in the first person. This works, sort of, until the various authors all experience near-death episodes that seem to be in part caused by either the incompetence or avarice of their host countries or their UN co-workers. From that point onward, a creeping and depressing cynicism and nilism infects this work and leaves you feeling both dirty and unrewarded for your continuing to delve deeper into this morass.

While well written, and with some great first person accounts, there is little in this book to recommend it as a whole. In particular I find it bizarre that the authors have all continued past the writing of this work to maintain their association with the UN and peace keeping efforts, because this book and its contents are a clear indictment of both.

Moreover, the confessional nature of the work (yes they really do have a section on the merits of “emergency sex”) while titillating does not leave the reader with any faith in the bone fides of the authors and their commitment or understanding of the what is necessary at a personal or a geopolitical level to achieve world peace. All in all, reading this is similar to your compulsion to watch a car accident as you drive past it – you can’t take your eyes off it at the time- but it leaves you feeling dirty and not the better for the experience.