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Don't Stop The Carnival

by Herman Wouk

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The Author

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 Introduction

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.

The Review

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

Posted by Isadora 12:29 Archived in USA Tagged books Comments (1)

The Lost Continent: Travels In Small-Town America

by Bill Bryson

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The Author & Introduction

During my time as a member of Travellerspoint, I have seen quite a few threads asking what books people read while traveling, what should someone read before traveling, what are member's favorite travel-related literary works, and so on. (A lot of "what" questions.) These requests were the reason the original TP Book Club thread was started in the Off Topic Forum. One author who always makes an early appearance is Bill Bryson. (Tway and I seem to trip over each other trying to beat each other to the proverbial posting punch where Bryson is concerned.) He is well-known for his sardonic wit and (non-fiction) travelogue style. Other Bryson works include: The Mother Tongue, Made In America, Neither Here nor There: Travels in Europe, A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail, I'm a Stranger Here Myself: Notes on Returning to America After 20 Years Away and In A Sunburned Country.

The Review

Bill Bryson was born during 1951 in Des Moines, Iowa. Like most middle-class American families of the time, vacations revolved around the "road trip" across the US. Such trips would usually include historic battle fields and anything that would let you in for free. Having been born only a couple of years later (and in a similarly-sized Iowa town), I could relate to Mr. Bryson's descriptions of the over-heated car, long hours on the highway and not stopping to pee. (After all, wasn't that what coffee cans were really designed for - emptying your bladder on long road trips?!) But, that's not what this book is about...

Having fled the country of his origins, once he became of age, Bryson set down his roots in the UK. Now, almost 2 decades later, he leaves his family in London and returns to rediscover The Lost Continent of his youth. Equipped with only a Chevy Chevette, borrowed from his mother, Bryson sets out on a 13,978 mile journey across 38 of the 48 contiguous states. It is a journey centered on love, hate and home. It is also a journey of unexpected revelations.

Having been in several of the places Mr. Bryson visits, I don't always agree with his assessments. But, that doesn't mean he's right or I am wrong in our experiences. We just saw things differently. I absolutely recommend this book to anyone planning a trip to the US. I also suggest that you check things out for yourself and not trust Mr. Bryson's opinion. Remember, he's an American looking at things from an American point of view. (He has also moved back to the US.) Either way, it is a very entertaining read and makes me want to revisit some very old haunts.

Find this book on Amazon: The Lost Continent: Travels In Small-Town America

Posted by Isadora 13:19 Archived in USA Comments (3)

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