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Don't Stop the Carnival by Herman Wouk

Updated: Jun 2, 2023

I have a friend who once sailed from Long Island to Bermuda. He said the trip was slow and boring, but he had much time to read. One of the books he read and recommended to me was Don't Stop the Carnival by Herman Wolk. This book is certainly in the top ten of my favorite island stories.

Norman Paperman, a New York public relations man, takes a trip to the island of Kinja in the West Indies with his client Lester Atlas. In a fit of crazy, or perhaps mid-life crisis, he moves there and buys the Gull Reef Club, a hotel and "resort." The Gull Reef is a short gondola ride across the harbor on its own little island. The native New Yorker is truly out of his element in Kinja. Not much has changed in the islands, Pacific or Caribbean since Wolk published this in 1965. In the Introduction to the 1999 edition, Wolk had this to say about his book:

"It is a farce comedy of pain, the pain of oncoming middle age, and of the desperate doomed attempt of one man to arrest the sands of time. Its purpose is to give pleasure by showing a funny side to that sad truth."

Anyone who has lived on a tropical island will relate to this book. Even if you haven't, I highly recommend it. Click here to find the book on Amazon.

In 1998 Jimmy Buffet and Herman Wolk collaborated on the musical based on Don't Stop the Carnival. Read, listen, and enjoy!


From Instagram on May 21, 2019

A tribute to Herman Wouk on his passing written by

I can’t remember who first told me about the book “Don’t Stop the Carnival”, but I am glad they did. I picked up a copy at Blue Water Books in Ft. Lauderdale in the early 70’s and read it on the first Gulf Stream crossing on Euphoria I. Little did I know then, that the book would take me on a voyage further and more interesting than any I have had on the high seas. It began with a letter to Herman inquiring about the rights to the book for a musical. He responded by thanking me for the proposal, but he did not know who I was. I wrote him back, saying, I was so happy to get a response because some people had told me he was dead. He responded with the quote from Mark Twain about reports of his death being “greatly exaggerated”. A week later, I was sitting in the shade of the oak tree in his yard in Palm Springs. It was the beginning of a wonderful friendship. Herman was usually referred to, in articles, reviews and interviews as a “serious” writer, which was true; but he also had a funny bone that I saw a lot of, in our 30 years of working together and keeping in touch. Through hell and high water, we got “Carnival”, on stage, but never to Broadway, which was our goal. As fellow sailors, we knew the journey was more satisfying than the destination. I said good-bye to him with a hug and kiss, last September, saying I would see him on his 104th birthday, which was not to be. His views on death were the same as those about life; happiness always above fear. He was never afraid of death, and mused about the subject on my last day with him. I asked him as a 72 year old, what was life like at 100 and beyond. He spread his arms wide, and with a sigh said “This....get ready”. He was still writing everyday (only a page a day, was one of the great writing lessons I learned from him), getting his affairs in order, enjoying visits from his friends, but longing to see his Sarah again. I hope they are together somewhere out there in the cosmos, and may the stars, from which we all come, shine brighter tonight, as Herman and Sarah move along together down their everlasting song-line. Farewell Old Lion. Your librettist, Jimmy

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