Vampire Weekend released the music video for
Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa eight years ago today. Here are some behind the scenes photos from the video shoot, filmed in New Jersey and directed by Richard Ayoade.
Woah, woah, woah--what is this book of short stories by Mr. Koenig? Are these available to buy / read anywhere? Moreover, do you have links to any of his writings in general?
The book is called Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa. It is a collection of short stories that he put together during his senior year in Columbia. This is the cover:
(Left: back cover; right: front cover)
Elif Batuman posted on her blog some excerpts of the short stories EK wrote:
“Some of the stories in Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa are kind of drug-trippy—young people, I discover, continue to be interested in drugs—and I am not a huge fan of drug literature. Nonetheless, one of my favorite passages comes up in the story about the acid trip of a college-aged “steel heir” in Jamaica (which is supposed to “sum up the history of the world since 1491,” by means of Joseph Conrad, Bob Marley, and a novelistic “prehistory” that connects the young heir’s acid experimentation to the vitiation of the family line). The passage I really like is an illustration of the colorfulness of the acid trip, using a quote from The Great Gatsby:
He took out a pile of shirts and began throwing them, one by one, before us, shirts of sheer linen and thick silk and fine flannel, which lost their folds as they fell and covered the table in many-colored disarray. While we admired he brought more and the soft rich heap mounted higher—shirts with stripes and scrolls and plaids in coral and apple-green and lavender and faint orange, with monograms of Indian blue. Suddenly, with a strained sound, Daisy bent her head into the shirts and began to cry stormily.
The characters in Koenig’s story are invited “to read this passage of Fitzgerald without any regard to context, plot, or symbolism”; so, “ignoring Gatsby and Daisy, [they] focus on the ever-mounting heap of shirts”:
We see the coral swirl around the apple green, while the faint orange floats as a mist all around. The Indian blue moves like a delicate firefly, looping and looping and looping. The heap touches the ceiling… We are pushed to the wall as the heap fills the room to its limits. The window breaks. The house bursts. A heartbreakingly fine Scotch plaid passes before our eyes. Pinstripes carry us into Manhasset Bay.
It’s druggy, but I really like the (impossible, pointless) idea of reading the Gatsby passage as if it were “all about the shirts”; and I also really like the observation about the profound sadness of beautiful clothes.
Why are beautiful clothes so sad? There are lots of reasons. I could write more about it later. But one reason is the “historical” sadness of fashion, of how tenuously clothes are tied to a particular and irretrievable moment of time. Despite his youth, Koenig expresses this very well, especially in a story about the sales table at Brooks Brothers. In this story, the collegiate narrator has inexplicably set out, on a rainy day weeks before spring break, to buy a bathing suit at Brooks Brothers, which appears as a gigantic museum of empty clothes, “a big glass box on the corner of 51st and 5th… like a diorama at the Museum of Natural History”:
Through the clear glass you simply see the store—the bright, folded sweaters and beautiful shirts of high-preppiness…. Immediately after entering, I was faced with a wooden table displaying a rainbow of sweater vests and linen shirts. The table was so large and ornate that seeing it covered in merchandise was jarring. It seemed to belong in the dining room of a gentleman. Was this his going out of business sale? A sad situation—somewhat analogous to the Maharajah of Jaipur throwing velvet ropes across the doorways of his palace for the ticketed masses.
The central action of this story is—spoiler alert—they don’t have bathing-suits yet (it’s too early in the season); instead, the narrator almost buys a pair of seersucker pants from another sad, post-imperial sale table—“These are very interesting,” says the saleswoman, of the pants—before changing his mind and going back into the rain without buying anything.
The sad thing in these stories is how much the beautiful clothes cost; not just that one can’t afford them, but also that the world order that sustained them was so expensive. Colonialism/ imperialism is always lurking in the background (“At the Ralph Lauren store on Madison Avenue, the leather boat shoes are displayed on a converted bookshelf,” just under “The Complete Works of Charles Dickens, a fifteen-volume set bound in brown leather”). One feels how sad it is that such an order ever existed, and also that it ended, having produced things of such beauty.”
His stories later supplied lyrics for many Vampire Weekend songs.
Someone asked him during their Reddit AMA where to get it and he said: