Don't Stop the Carnival

Don't Stop the Carnival

by Herman Wouk


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The "compulsively and clock-racingly readable" novel (New York Times Book Review) that captures the comedy and tragedy of island life and inspired a Jimmy Buffett musical.

It's every parrothead's dream: to leave behind the rat race of the workaday world and start life all over again amidst the cool breezes, sun-drenched colors, and rum-laced drinks of a tropical paradise.

It's the story of Norman Paperman, a New York City press agent who, facing the onset of middle age, runs away to a Caribbean island to reinvent himself as a hotel keeper. (Hilarity and disaster — of a sort peculiar to the tropics — ensue.)

It's the novel in which the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of such acclaimed and bestselling novels as The Caine Mutiny and War and Remembrance draws on his own experience (Wouk and his family lived for seven years on an island in the sun) to tell a story at once brilliantly comic and deeply moving.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780316955126
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Publication date: 05/15/1992
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 416
Sales rank: 93,543
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.62(h) x 1.25(d)

Read an Excerpt

Don't Stop the Carnival

Chapter One

Kinja was the name of the island when it was British. Now the name on the maps and in the Caribbean guidebooks is Amerigo, but everybody who lives there still calls it Kinja.

The Union Jack flew over this enchanting green hump in the blue ocean for almost two hundred years. Before that the island was Danish; before that, French; before that, cannibal. Smoky gun battles between sailing ships and the old stone fort went with these flag changes; whizzing cannon balls, raiding parties, skirmishes, and an occasional death. But the fort guns have been silent for more than a century. The United States acquired the island peaceably in 1940, as part of the shuffling of old destroyers and Caribbean real estate that went on between Mr Roosevelt and Mr. Churchill. The Americans ended up in this instance not only with the submarine base in Shark Bay-now gone back to tall guinea grass and catch-and-keep, the piers sagging and rotting, the rusty Quonset huts all askew-but with the whole island. The details of the transaction were and are vague to the inhabitants. They were not much interested.

Keenja was the short, musical native version of the actual British name, King George the Third Island. Obviously this was a bit awkward for an American possession, so somebody in the Department of the Interior thought of Amerigo. The new name is used mainly on official stationery and in the school classrooms. There the pupils docilely scrawl themes and recite facts about Amerigo, but in the streets and playgrounds they call the place Kinja, and themselves Kinjans. All through the Caribbean they still say of a native of this island, "He fum Kinja."

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 them 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.

Long ago they came in their white-winged ships, swarmed over the islands, slaughtered the innocent cannibals, chopped down magnificent groves of mahogany that had stood since the Flood, and planted sugar cane. Sugar was money then, and it grew only in warm places. They used the felled mahogany to boil molasses. Those were the days of the great stone plantation houses and sugar mills; of seasick slaves hauled in from Africa, the ancestors of the Kinjans; of wealthy landowners with pink cool wives back in England, and warm black concubines on the premises. Then the sugar beet, which can grow in the north, came in, and black slavery went out. Bankruptcy and insurrection exploded along the island chain. The boom collapsed. The planters left. The plantation hours fell in. Today the natives put tin roofs over one nook or another in the massive broken walls and live there.

The West Indians do not know what will caug the frantic whites to leave next time. Perhaps a bad earthquake: the entire chain of drowned mountains rests on a shaky spot in the earth's crust. Or a tidal wave; or a very bad hurricane; or an outbreak of some dormant tropical disease; or the final accidental blow-up of the white man's grumbling cauldron in the north, which will End the Caribbean white remnant scurrying to-where next? Tasmania? Tierra del Fuego? Unlike the natives they cannot subsist, if the ships and planes stop coming, on crayfish, mangoes, coconuts, and iguanas.

Meantime, in a fashion, Amerigo is getting Americanized. The natives like the new holidays-Thanksgiving, Fourth of July, Presidents' birthdays, and the rest-added to the old British holidays and the numerous religious days, none of which they have abandoned. The work calendar has become a very light and unburdensome thing. The inflow of cash is making everyone more prosperous. Most Kinjans go along cheerily with this explosion of American energy in the Caribbean. To them it seems a new, harmless, and apparently endless carnival.


Excerpted from Don't Stop the Carnival by Herman Wouk Copyright © 1999 by Herman Wouk. Excerpted by permission.
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Dont Stop the Carnival 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 19 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Very entertaining read. Some of the situations are so outlandish and ridiculous, they are hilarious. Many times you just want to take the lead character and shake him. His dream is one that I think most of us have, I know that I do. That is how I was introduced to this book by my father. He was tired of hearing me talk about how I wanted to own a B & B in Key West. I really enjoyed this book. It was funny, touching and little sad. A combination that for me makes it unforgettable.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is without a doubt the best book I have ever read. It is masterfully written, and the reader is elated at the triumphs, and is devastated in the defeats of the protagonist, Norman Paperman. It is a comedy of how everything can go wrong, yet still remain all right. A must-read for any literate person!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I first read Herman Wouk's 'Don't Stop the Carnival' in 1970. Having been a Caribbean sail bum between 1964 and 1982, I experienced first hand the carnival of the Caribbean, and although I never knew him, he and I shared space on the tiny island of St. Thomas, in the U.S. Virgin Islands in the 1960's. When I read 'Don't Stop the Carnival', I realized it was more than fiction. It was, and indeed remains, reality . . . in the islands, the carnival never stops. As Jimmy Buffet sings in his song 'Changes in Latitudes', 'Through all of the islands and all of the highlands, if I couldn't laugh I would just go insane.' A must read for anyone intending to head south to paradise!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I read this book and did not really believe these scenarios could happen! Loved the book, I did not put it down! No one can have that many water problems, employee problems, beaurocratic problems, on top of all of the family problems Norman Paperman was facing back home. Then it happened. Having many family problems here, we decided to 'escape' to the Caribbean when an opportunity arose to work at a hotel in a small independant island. This was a new hotel, a big chain, and we thought that with the $ behind it, these problems would not exist! After 6 months water is STILL a major problem, employees get into the most amazing situations that affect how the hotel is running, government has really strange rules about how employees are hired and treated. When my husband tells me the strange and often sadistically funny things that happen, I find myself quoting this book constantly! As the author says, if you are thinking about owning or working in a hotel in the islands, you must read this book. Everything that happens in the book can and will happen! There is even a family name of Hyppolite, and everyone does carry around machetes on the island that we are on, and the family problems at home did not go away, we just don't have as much time to think about them! A very honest and truthful book!
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book was captivating and exciting. You almost become one of the characters, you are there, in the Caribbean, living with events of the day. Once you start, you will want to keep going. But you never finish the book. At the last page, you have become part of the book, part of their lives.
figre on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Not too long ago, I finished reading Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House and I was thoroughly disappointed. From the hype (various movies and many reprints), I expected more. I had no expectations going into Don¿t Stop the Carnival. And yet, when I started the book, I began having the same fears and disappointments and ¿disbelief in characters¿ (a new phrase I just made up) I felt with Blandings ¿ the problem being that I felt no sympathy for these schlubs who bought into investments without any common sense.Maybe it was worsened because I had just read Blandings, but it took me a while to get past that hint of distaste in the back of my mind. But I¿m glad I got past it.Wouk (much more famous for his war novels ¿ in particular, The Caine Mutiny) tells the story of a New York promoter Norman Paperman who, swept up in the beauty of the Caribbean island of Amerigo, buys a hotel he will run. It does not go well to start with including a misunderstanding of how much money he and his partner are actually responsible for, a misunderstanding of the laws and politics of the little island, and a misunderstanding of who really does the work. The book is half disaster and half success in adversity. This beginning is the part I had trouble getting through, watching a clueless man being crushed by circumstance. But Wouk does bring humor to the proceedings ¿ a subtle humor that makes the people more real. And Wouk makes the characters more believable than you first expect - to the point where, when they do stupid things, we really feel sorry for them. And these characterizations and transformations of the people make the transition from disaster to success (no quick fixes, no deus ex machinas) that much more believable.By the mid-way part of the book, I found myself turned from my earlier revulsion to interest in what was going to happen. In other words, Wouk has made a book about real people (probably because this is an experience he lived for seven years) and real situations (no matter how absurd they may seem) that becomes a pleasure to read.
carterchristian1 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
What a great read. I was in the Caribbean 4 years ago for an extended stay, visited 6 English speaking islands, and 45 years later this is still "spot on". There are also some very good insights into New York and one eerie sentence:"Instead of bomb shelters we construct giagantic frail glass buildings all over Manhattanat Ground Zero, a thousand feet high open to the sky, like a woman undressing before an open window and provoking him to rape her."
foof2you on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
An iteresting book about island life. I can see why Jimmy Buffett chose this story to make a musical about.
jayne_charles on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I love Herman Wouk's books! This one leaves out most of Wouk's traditional themes (war/Jewish experience) and concentrates on the comedy. One disaster after another - superb.
Djupstrom on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book was recommended to me, and I was a bit apprehensive about taking it up. I was wrong. It was literary entertainer...a combo not easy to achieve.
Drewano More than 1 year ago
Ugg I really wanted to like this book.  It’s been out there recommended to me multiple times since I love stories about escaping it all and moving to the beach, but I couldn’t get over the writing style of Mr. Wouk’s writing style.  He’s so formal and rigid in his descriptions that it read more like a novel from 1665 than 1965.  The way everything is described I just felt it didn’t bring the surroundings and happenings to life like a great work of fiction (especially one set in the tropics) should. The story is interesting and amusing, but nothing so over the top that I really enjoyed wondering what would happen next.  Some parts are zaney and amusing and I could see them happening in real life, but many were quite predictable (there was a problem with the cistern last time they had a major earthquake, there is a minor earthquake but no damage, and you can guess that happens next).  Maybe it was built up to much by people but I just felt this book was a giant disappointment.
Lady2Soothe More than 1 year ago
I first read Don't Stop the Carnival May 7th 1970, and no sooner had I finished it I flipped to the first page and read it again. I have been reading this book every year since. 
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Guest More than 1 year ago
Truelly the best book I have ever read. I got it 5 or 6 years ago and make it a point to go back and read it at least once a year. I have NEVER found a book that draws me in like this one. Masterfully writen.