This fascinating book presents a whirling, free-associating history of the cigar, beginning with the discovery of America by Columbus in 1492. Columbus sent Rodrigo de Xeres inland to prospect for gold; he came back with tales of men who think they are chimneys: men who smoke, using a brown tube burning on one end. Here Guillermo Cabrera Infante describes the history of cigars in the Caribbean & the process of making cigars by hand in Cuba; & the history, customs & popularity of cigar-smoking in America & Europe. He also includes poems & passages from literary works that describe cigar smoking by famous authors, such as Rudyard Kipling, James Joyce, Colette, & John O'Hara. Originally published in 1985.
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An engaging classic about a ``burning passion''--cigar smoking--is available here more than a decade after its original UK issue. It is passionate, indeed. This rich and juicy book by Cabrera Infante (Infante's Inferno, 1984; Mea Cuba, 1994; etc.) makes the current crop of coffee table books on the subject seem like mere ephemera. The author was born in Cuba, where Columbus first witnessed the ur- cigar being enjoyed by the locals. The brave admiral (in a fit of early political correctness) didn't partake, but a colleague did, and the stink of the stogey soon spread 'round the world. Cabrera Infante is quick on the draw, tracing the history of the habit in a playful, relaxed narrative. He discursively discourses on the growing of the leaf and the manufacture and various forms of what was first described as a ``horizontal chimney.'' Fillers, binders, and wrappers, shapes and shops, mores and manners, true Havanas, cigarettes, pipes, snuff, and ash are all covered in the pun- encrusted, addictive text. Smoked out, too, is every movie reference to the tobacco habit, with fulsome, funny references to performers from W.C. Fields to Wallace Ford, Groucho Marx (of course) to Percy Kilbride. The movie allusions give way to literary allusions with a miscellany that includes Hammett's Continental Op, the great Myles na gCopaleen, Baron Corvo, Sherlock Holmes (of course) and (of course) Kipling. Written in the days when Castro still smoked and Orson Welles still walked among us, this text refers to a Davidoff as ``the most expensive cigar in the world . . . around ten dollars each.'' Alas, even that awful price has been far surpassed in recent years. But no matter. Cabrera Infante's pyrotechnics have not yet been equaled. Take a leaf from this book and have some robusto fun. -- Copyright ©1997, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.From Publishers Weekly:
This curious volume is a potpourri of information and lore about cigars, their smokers from Rodrigo de Xeres of Columbus's crew to Winston Churchill and Castro, their manufacture, their sale and their appearance in song and story. All this is presented in a style brim full of literary referencesto Congreve, Conan Doyle, Ogden Nash, Italo Calvino and other writersthrough every paragraph. The cigar-smoking on-screen images of W. C. Fields, Groucho Marx, Orson Welles and Gary Cooper are evoked; the author also considers cigarettes and their contrasting Hollywood image. The word play is sometimes clever, sometimes weak, but Infante keeps adding puns until the practice becomes wearing. His erudition is impressive, though, and his topic entertaining, so readers interested in the subject should find the book enjoyable. Infante's earlier books include Three Trapped Tigers and Infante's Inferno. February 13
Copyright 1985 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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