by Herman Wouk
Fri 1 Jan 10
Herman Wouk as an author is definitely more well-known for his other literary works than for this particular selection. He penned The Caine Mutiny for which he won the Pulitzer Prize in Literature. His other offerings include Marjorie Morningstar; Youngblood Hawke; The Winds of War; War and Remembrance; Inside, Outside; The Hope; and The Glory among others. But, it is Don't Stop The Carnival that is a most enjoyable blending of his own personal experiences living in the Caribbean for several years and an imaginary tale. Wouk is able to mix tragedy and triumph in a flawlessly humorous manner. That may sound a very odd statement but it is a true one. And, though this book was originally published in 1965, it has not lost any of it's luster over the years.
The year is 1959 and let me introduce you to Norman Paperman - a New York press agent on the verge of a mid-life crisis. Norman has hob-nobbed with the who's who of New York City's theater celebs. He's dined regularly at Sardi's and never missed a Broadway opening. He, with his wife Henny by his side, is at the top of his game. Little did he imagine a heart attack would throw him into turmoil...
Amerigo, or as the locals call it Kinja, is a small Caribbean island stuck among all the other small Caribbean islands. It sees it's share of tourist trade, has beautiful beaches, rustic lodgings, a government that flip-flops every few years, and the green flash at sunset. It also has a hotel, the Gull Reef Club, up for sale. What better a place to begin a new life than a Caribbean island that has it all. Well, that was Norman's thought. He and his friend, Lester Atlas, pay a visit to Kinja. Norman is absolutely enamored with the tropics, not to mention the Gull Reef Club. Now, how to tell Henny...
What transpires next is truly a madcap attempt at running a hotel on the edge of collapse. Whatever problem you can picture in your mind, Norman will probably encounter it. There's not a day that goes by where something doesn't fail. Yet, Mr. Paperman refuses to give up hope. It's the only thing he has working on his side. That, and a few friends he has made along his journey.
I found this book to be captivating. Like most books I read, it took me awhile to get through it but not due to lack of interest - more a lack of free time. Having visited the Caribbean on numerous occasions, I could relate whole-heartedly to the way things progress - slowly. The characters are full and rich with personality. The descriptions allowed me clear visualization of the backdrops, characters and goings-on. Personally, I was a tad disappointed with the way Wouk chose to end it, but I understand the reasoning behind it. I also had to look at it from the point of view that would have been in place in 1959 (and 1965, for that matter). Seriously, if the book was written today - the ending would probably remain the same for the same reasons. Regardless of my opinion of the ending and taking the story as a whole, I highly recommend Don't Stop The Carnival to everyone. Enjoy the green flash at sunset.
Find this book on Amazon: Don't Stop The Carnival