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Kehlmann and Cabaret

My reading vacation continues apace. Having done with Nature Girl yesterday - if you can imagine a Feydeau farce set on a hummock called Dismal Key, then you must already have read this hilarious book - I was not quite ready to start in on Thomas Kehlmann's much more serious Measuring the World (translated by Carol Brown Janeway; Pantheon, 2006). Little did I know that Mr Kehlmann's book is not a very great deal more serious than Mr Hiaasen's; its drollery is just very dry. I would find this out in the afternoon, when I read nearly all of the novel, which is about two contemporaries, Alexander von Humboldt and Carl Gauss, who devoted their careers to the eponymous project but who otherwise had nothing in common. When we got back to the room after breakfast, I picked up the irresistibly packaged Intimate Nights: The Golden Age of New York Cabaret, by James Gavin (2nd edition; Back Stage, 2006). Opening the book way past the halfway point, I read about the birth of Reno Sweeney (the cabaret, not the Cole Porter character) and the death of the piano bar Backstage. Mr Gavin seems generously disposed toward most of his numerous subjects, but the atmosphere of dish is Venusian.

Today's lunch at the Mermaid (the Buccaneer's beachfront terrace) was not quite as amusing as yesterday's. There was an unbelievable "bar backup" that obliged me to eat my lunch without a glass of wine (the outrage!), and the background music was looped on the same inane steel-band piece for nearly an hour. More significantly, there were fewer guests to watch, as families headed home for Turkey Day. We saw this happen at Dorado Beach two years ago. Shades of "Death in Venice." Very sunny shades, bien sûr.

On Tuesdays, there is a Manager's Reception in the ruin of a sugar mill that stands next to the main building. I wanted to go, but after a long walk down Grotto Beach and back, Kathleen was pooped. She stretched out on the wide window seat and napped instead. That's why I almost finished Measuring the World.

Kathleen's decision not to go into Christiansted occasioned much inner and some outward rejoicing. Not only would I not have to worry about her when, inevitably, she checked in with a phone call ninety minutes after the appointed time, but she'd really keep things restful and simple. While I was measuring the world, she was laughing over a piece about a "swag party" in Vogue. That's the ticket.


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