Don’t stop the Carnival

Herman Wouk (1965) Don’t Stop the Carnival

Rating: ★★★★★

First it is only fair to say that since this book was written in 1965, you probably won’t find anywhere like Amerigo today. Caricatures maybe, but there are definitely Norman Paperman and Lester Atlas types still around. Paperman, the neurotic, over-worked, over stressed New Yorker enticed by Paradise, Atlas, the beligerent, asset-stripping moneyman (still likeable), and a host of other characters. Having lived a short while in the Bahamas, the attitudes of these people and their reaction to island life is authentic and hilarious! This is one of those books I will re-read when in need, and for that reason I recommend it. OK, its not a blockbuster, but is far easier on the eyes than some 800 pager. As a book to read for its own sake, or to get a taste of laid-back island style, give it a go!

Herman Wouk made some perceptive comments worth sharing here:

“The West Indian is not exactly hostile to change, but he is not much inclined to believe in it. This comes from a piece of wisdom that his climate of eternal summer teaches him. It is that, under all the parade of human effort and noise, today is like yesterday, and tomorrow will be like today; that existence is a wheel of recurring patterns from which no one escapes; that all anybody does in this life is live for a while and then die for good, without finding out much; and that therefore the idea is to take things easy and enjoy the passing time under the sun. The white people charging hopefully around the islands these days in the noon glare, making deals, bulldozing airstrips, hammering up hotels, laying out marinas, opening new banks, night clubs, and gift shops, are to him merely a passing plague. They have come before and gone before.” (p9)

“Look at us. We build giant highways and murderously fast cars for killing each other and committing suicide. Instead of bomb shelters we construct gigantic frail glass buildings all over Manhattan at Ground Zero, a thousand feet high, open to the sky, like a woman undressing before an intruder and provoking him to rape her. We ring Russia’s borders with missile-launching pads, and then scream that she’s threatening us. In all history there’s never been a more lurid mass example of the sadist-masochist expression of the thanatos instinct (self- destruct urge) than the present conduct of the United States. The Nazis by comparison were Eagle Scouts.” (p69)
This second quote on American attitudes is interesting, note the ominous use of ¬†‘Ground Zero’ (underlining mine). Can anyone find an earlier use of the term (outside the atomic bombs on Japan at the end of WWII) than 1965?

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