Honolulu Stories: Two Centuries of Writing
Edited by Gavan Daws and Bennett Hymer
Mutual; 1117 pages; $35
Reviewed by Christine Thomas
Published 6/22 in the Honolulu Advertiser
Had “Honolulu Stories” editors Gavan Daws and Bennet Hymer included the full text of each story included in this mammoth, 1000 plus-page collection of Honolulu portraits from the nineteenth century to the present, it would be even more intimidating to crack open.
But apart from its girth, this first-of-its-kind anthology is undeniably impressive in its ambitious, democratic range and focus on “imaginative writing, not nonfiction.” And with nearly 250 contributors and 350 entries—by unknown to local favorites to famous voices—nine translated languages, and sweeping categories such as The Plantation, On the Beach at Waikiki, and To Be Hawaiian, the poetry, lyrics, chants, fiction, comedy, and plays within offer a truly comprehensive canvas.
There are expected inclusions, such as Queen Lili`uokalani’s prayer and excerpts from London and Bushnell; local fixtures like Lois Ann Yamanaka, and Ian MacMillan; as well as unexpected mainland voices like Hunter S. Thompson’s “The Curse of Lono” and National Book Award winner Denis Johnson’s “Tree of Smoke.”
But it’s classic icons like Kapono Beamer’s “Mr Sun Cho Lee,” Rap Reiplinger’s “Room Service,” and Jerry Santos’ “Ku`u Home O Kahalu`u” that ground the collection in the meaningful and authentic, elevating it to a treasured household reference that reveals today’s Honolulu as “a literary city of its own making.”