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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)

Down and Out in Paris and London

by George Orwell

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OUTLINE

Based on Orwell's own real life accounting of living in the slums of Paris and later in London. Orwell creates a fictional character that recounts his tales of reaching the lowest level in Paris and trying to survive at a similar level in London. Along the way meeting characters that help, hinder and create further interest.

REVIEW

This is a great book that really sticks with you once you've read it. Nineteen Eighty-Four (1984) is another Orwell classic, the concept is chilling and frightening real today. Down and out in Paris and London is a very different read. If you've ever wondered what it would be like to throw away all your cash, or what would happen if you lost everything in another country - this is a must read.

Orwell's character is there by choice, which makes it even more gripping. From living on pennies, selling, borrowing and avoiding all in Paris to living a homeless street life in London is visually descriptive and puts you right there with him. A great work of writing that one can relate to on so many levels.

OVERALL

I was not expecting this book to be so good. It's a travel book of a different kind that is often overlooked due to high brow literary write-ups. For the traveler it's well worth picking up this book. For everyone else, it's just as good for the insight alone.

Packing Space Guide: Its a slim 228 pages. It's 0.6 inches thick and weighs under half a pound. Fits nicely into a bag or large pocket.

My Rating: 5/5

Other George Orwell Works Include:
Animal Farm
Homage to Catalonia
Facing Unpleasant Facts: Narrative Essays (Complete Works of George Orwell)

Buy it: Down and Out in Paris and London is available on Amazon.

About the Author: Dave has been traveling around the world in search of home for 5 years, photographing and writing about his journey on his website: www.thelongestwayhome.com.

Posted by TLWH 04:00 Archived in France Tagged books Comments (2)

Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books

by Azar Nafisi

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The Author

Azar Nafisi is currently a professor of English Literature at Johns Hopkins University. Prior to 1997, she lived in Iran and taught English and American Literature at the University of Tehran, The Free Islamic University, and The University of Allemah Tabatabai.

The Introduction

Professor Nafisi possessed (and still possesses I imagine) a passion for English Literature, most notably the works of Vladimir Nabokov, Jane Austen, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Henry James. In 1995, she resigned her post at The University of Tehran in protest of the law requiring women to wear the veil. Unbowed by what she considered to be a horrible repression of women’s rights, she invited several of her favorite female students to her home to begin what would become a weekly book club to read and discuss books that she so cherished but were banned by the new hardcore Islamic Regime as being decadent Western nonsense. In her home, protected from the “morality squads”, she and her students were free to remove their veils and simply be themselves without the burden of judgment from their repressive government. Nafisi writes lovingly of these sessions, with admiration for the courage of her students. To continually defy the authority of the Islamic Republic meant great danger for these women, a danger they faced on a daily basis; being caught wearing makeup, nail polish, or colorful clothing under their veils, allowing too much skin to be seen, or simply being in public without the accompaniment of a male relative. The women were forced to weave their lives through periods of harsh repression and, at times, a loosening of the strict codes dictated by the Ruling Council. The weekly book club allowed this group to escape into literature, and through discussions of it, reconcile their lives in a world not entirely under their control.

The Review

It was very difficult for me to read this book without being angry, angry that in my very lifetime, the rights and privileges of ordinary people have been suspended by government officials who, to a Western eye, seem to have been determined to return their country to the Middle Ages. I was a university student in Chicago at the time the early part of this book took place, and I find it difficult to imagine the kind of repression that occurred at various universities in Tehran. The book recalls the ascension (and eventual death) of Ayatollah Khomeini to become Supreme Leader of Iran after the Revolution, the ability of professors to teach what they wished openly only to have those privileges revoked and brutally suppressed. Student demonstrations against the policies of the Ruling Council were summarily put down with arrests, torture, and murder. One of the few ways to escape the madness was literature, and Professor Nafisi was determined to hold on to one of the last vestiges of sanity, both for herself and her students. Her classes were filled with believers and non-believers in the Regime, and the discussions were both lively and subdued. Many students were afraid to openly discuss class topics for fear they would be labeled as subversive, while others would cite the characters in the books as evidence of Western decadence. There is so much more to write that I could fill many pages with this review, but I’ll spare you my poor prose.

Some of the less angry moments in the book for me were discussions between Nafisi and her friend, the man she called “my magician”. The man was a stabilizing factor in her life, allowing her to release some of the pain she carried. During one meeting, over coffee and chocolates, when she was particularly bitter over the most recent edicts issued from the government, her magician declared “You should stop blaming the Islamic Republic for all of our problems”. This simple statement struck a chord, a realization that we all make our own problems. We have the power, in whatever society we live, to be individuals and free, at least in our minds.

I highly recommend this book to anyone who wishes to be free, if nowhere else but their mind.

You can find this book at Amazon: Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books.

Posted by beerman 09:14 Archived in Iran Tagged books Comments (0)

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