Why do social anthropologists suck? Mostly because they are annoying, overeducated white folks with grant money, swinging happily in the university safety net, fantasizing about acceptance into an authentic, colorful world. Lola's Luck is a pseudointellectual mess from University of Washington alum Carol Miller, a puffed-up account of her time with the Machvaia Gypsies. Miller imagines that her fieldwork, "studying" the Machvaia tribe, was qualitative academic research. In truth, she was having an affair with "Stevo," one of the respected Gypsy dudes. She was forever torn between two worlds. (Sigh! Clutch pearls, sigh! Faint! Wipe Harlequin sweat off chest.)
I disappeared for days behind the ivied walls of the university. Stevo manfully tried to come to my rescue—he went with me to a dance that the anthropology department sponsored. He showed up looking solidly prosperous. Everyone knew American Gypsies were the subject of my studies, but no one knew a Gypsy was my escort.
Don't be fooled into thinking you'll learn about the really interesting people she encountered back in the 1970s; they're overshadowed by a nervous author who waited 40 years until Lola died to write about all the quality time spent with the Machvaia tribe. Lola was not given a voice to tell her side of the story and is treated as a cheap literary accessory. This book is really about Miller and the sexy time she had, the "life-changing event of meeting her Gypsy man." Every page is a narcissistic memory of her sheltered life.
Before I knew Gypsies, I never thought much about luck. I began to realize I had always been lucky. My life seemed to proceed according to some fortunate plan. Smiles followed me wherever I went.
The subject of Gypsies and how they live in America could have been groundbreaking social science if Miller possessed an ounce of Joseph Campbell's finesse at elegantly deducing our differences and teaching us about our cultural parallels. Or if she admitted her inability to make sense of the world without a textbook, ditched her superiority complex, and just told an honest story—then she would have at least been likable. If you have ever traveled to exotic places, met indigenous people, and participated in their rituals without a degree in anthropology, you will want to set fire to this book. This is nothing more than a Jane and Tarzan romance novel with a West Coast accent.