in the stories of adam lewis Schroeder, meetings between West and East are generally like rubbing together two pieces of sandpaper. Interactions are scratchy, uncomfortable and irritating, with one culture -- often the westerner's -- worn down by exposure to the other.Schroeder's tales deal with the surprisingly deep relationship between an unconsciously condescending 19th-century British rare-specimen hunter and his native assistant, a Thai tour guide placating his angry clients, a dying Indonesian with a wandering memory who sided with the Dutch years earlier, and a demanding woman who has traipsed to Borneo with a boyfriend in hopes of observing high-tree orangutans.
The best of the stories are filled with telling details and sometimes quirky comedy that add emotional colour to the narrative. In one, a Dutch painter "goes native" in Bali just as the second world war begins. The novella Beautiful Feet is the tale of an emotionally and spiritually ill-equipped Canadian missionary family who journey to the Philippines and discover similarities between Jesus Christ and Apocalypse Now's Kurtz.
The same comic note and attention to detail mark what seems to be a thematic anomaly in the book, the tale of an egocentric Hollywood movie actor filming in Prague who decides to pursue his Jewish roots. But it's also an East versus West tale -- eastern Europe rather than the far East -- and when the central figure adopts another culture, he's as awkward and uneasy as Schroeder's other westerners .
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KINGDOM OF MONKEYS by Adam Lewis Schroeder (Raincoast), 196 pages, $19.95 paper. ISBN: 1551924048 Rating: NNN