Saturday, April 5, 2014

"Captain Cap: His Adventures, His Ideas, His Drinks" by Alphonse Allais (Translated by Doug Skinner)

Black Scat Books ISBN: 978-0-615-84340-7

Locations are important to me, and there is nothing like reading a book in my bathtub, and this book, "Captain Cap: His Adventures, His ideas, His Drinks" by Alphonse Allais is the perfect text while deep in soap suds water up to the chin.  I know very little of Allais, but it seems he was way ahead of his times with respect to music and art.  He wrote a musical composition in 1897 called "Funeral March for the Obsequies of a Deaf Man," which was nothing but silence.  Surely John Cage was influenced by him!  He also did a painting called "First Communion of Anemic Young Girls In The Snow," which was just a blank piece of paper.  So naturally I would be interested to read the adventures and thoughts of his good friend Captain Cap, who not only knows his way around making cocktails (detailed recipes throughout the book), but also got into absurd adventures of all sorts.

While reading the book, I was consistently reminded of the novelist and poet Blaise Cendrars as well as the American humorist and writer Robert Benchley.  Due that both authors capture an absurdity in life, and have a care-free attitude towards their subject matters.  Yet one gets the feeling that there is something quite fundamental is happening under the surface of the text.  There are lots of references to science, especially with respect to engineering (which also reminds me of Boris Vian as well) and life during the late 19th century.  The translator did a remarkable job in translating the text, which due to its word-playing, must be a very difficult thing to do.  His illustrations are charming as well.

Black Scat Books did a great service to literature by presenting this book.  And wherever or whatever Captain Cap goes, an adventure of sorts is guaranteed.

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