David's Reviews > The Company of the Dead

The Company of the Dead by David Kowalski
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Dec 16, 2011

bookshelves: unread, irrelevant-reviews
Recommended to David by: Caris
read count: 0

Warning: This is a non-review review. If you are one of those priggish scolds who demands actual review reviews, pass this one by. I'm just not in the mood right now for one of those 'How dare you review a book without reading it!' lectures. It's a free galaxy, so go ahead and buzz off. (Who am I kidding? Nobody will notice the irrelevance of this review because nobody will notice this book.)

I am David Kowalski. No, not that David Kowalski—the world-renowned Australian gynecologist who writes alternate history books about the Titanic on the sly—when he isn't elbow-deep in Australian pussy. (I realize that the word 'pussy' is considered offensive, distasteful, or absurd by many, but no other ready-to-hand vaginal epithet had the proper rhythm for that sentence.) I am also not the David Kowalski who is a Grammy and Emmy nominated audio engineer and who also owns the davidkowalski.com domain name. One day when I become insanely famous, this latter David Kowalski will become a obstacle and will be dealt with accordingly. Legally I must remain vague, but you are free to read between the lines as you wish. Between the line readings are generally not admissable in court.

It's difficult being David Kowalski for countless reasons, some of which those of you who know me can well imagine. But even those who haven't enjoyed my friendship will probably confirm that Kowalski is a ridiculous name, lacking both euphony and dignity. It's become something of a punchline, as a matter of fact. For instance, its clumsy, ethnic suggestivity is used as a gag in the I Accuse My Parents episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000. Consider these other emphatically tongue-in-cheek or unflattering uses of the name in popular culture:

1. Baby Kowalski was essentially a hairy, overweight, criminal knucklehead on Ren and Stimpy. His appearance is no doubt inspired by the big lug stereotypes of the early 20th century crime movies and certainly also indebted to actual physical bearings of countless of Polish-American males across this country. My paternal grandfather was not fat or particularly hairy, but I'd be lying if I said there wasn't something about Baby Kowalski that inspired a generalized nostalgia.

2. Kowalski (I've heard) is a penguin from the animated film Madagascar. Now why would a penguin be named Kowalski except for humorous effect? The incongruity of a waddling Arctic bird and a (usually) lower-middle class Polish-American is certainly an attempt at humor—whether it succeeds or not is up to the viewer.

3. Roxanne Kowalski is the title character in the 1980s Steve Martin-Daryl Hannah comedy Roxanne. In the 1980s Daryl Hannah was considered a beauty. An epitomal beauty almost. (Although I think she was much more... exciting decades later as Elle Driver in the Kill Bill movies.) Saddling this pretty young woman with such an ugly name is an Alanis Morissette-style attempt at comic irony. Get it? She's pretty, but her name isn't? Ha.

4. Recently, Clint Eastwood's character Walt Kowalski in Gran Torino made use of other latent implications of the name. You see, Polish-Americans, especially of the 'Greatest Generation' and the Baby Boom generation, are somewhat notorious for being bigoted assholes who watch over their well-tended lawns with the violent, blood-thirsty malice of barbarian chieftains. I realize that this statement would have a lot of broad-minded Polacks hot under the collar, but—sorry—it's true. I live in a Midwestern city with a disproportionately high population of Polish-Americans, and they hate 'coloreds' and 'Mexicans' like Richard Simmons hates sleeves. Of course the urban trend nowadays is that blacks and Hispanics are 'encroaching' [their perspective] on old Polish neighborhoods and ruining them—making them unsafe and polluted. More to the point, the darkies don't take care of their lawns. (Again, I am citing the argument, not endorsing it.) Gran Torino captures this dynamic with documentarian accuracy—except with gooks in this case. If you scratch the surface of at least three-quarters of elderly Polish-Americans, you'll find a hardcore bigot. These aren't the kind of people who will use the word 'nigger' or offer up their narrow-mindedness to just anyone—they are a squirrelly lot—but it's there... Trust me. It's there.


5. 'Kowalski' is a song by Primal Scream.

6. Kowalski is the criminal, remorseless driver in the 1970s cult film Vanishing Point. (This is far from reality. Most Polish-Americans prefer to drive ten miles under the speed limit. Traffic laws are too liberal for them.)

7. Kowalski is a Top Gun-like pilot in the parody Hot Shots!

8. Leon Kowalski is a character in Blade Runner.

9. And of course the ever-boorish Stanley Kowalski, from Tennessee Williams's A Streetcar Named Desire, was probably at one time the most famous Kowalski of all. But general illiteracy and cultural ignorance have taken care of that. I could probably count the number of Stanley Kowalski mentions I've had in my life on one hand—outnumbered now by references to Walt Kowalski and that damned penguin.

There are more, of course, but I'm bored with this. You probably are too. But maybe now you realize how difficult it is for us gynecologists, audio engineers, and office-bound automatons to be David Kowalskis. It just lacks the poetic vitality of other names, like Heath Ironsteel or Wade Theodore St. Cloud III, and the neutral simplicity of still other names, like John Jones or Dan Dean. The ironic thing is that Kowalski is (literally) the Smith of Polish names. In that country, it's probably tediously unremarkable. But here it's a punchline. A stereotype. An ugly bit of sound. Which is why I'm changing my name to Rodney Lowenstein before I get rich and famous. So remember that name... Lowenstein... Lowenstein...
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Comments (showing 1-36 of 36) (36 new)

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message 1: by j (new)

j my name is zweig!

message 2: by Caris (new)

Caris Thank you.

message 3: by David (new) - added it

David You've got a Happy Days last name, Joel. I've espied it on Facebook.

Caris, no problem. Sorry it took so long. I was busy helping my Polish relatives install landmines in their front yards.

message 4: by j (new)

j i was making a simpsons joke, because i thought you were... ("lowenstein... lowenstein...") maybe not.

message 5: by David (last edited Dec 16, 2011 08:58AM) (new) - added it

David Joel wrote: "i was making a simpsons joke, because i thought you were... ("lowenstein... lowenstein...") maybe not."

Yes, I was joking. But I don't watch The Simpsons, so I was confused. As per usual. (The Lowenstein thing originally comes from the ridiculous ending of the ridiculous movie The Prince of Tides--a tender southern drama about anal rape.)

message 6: by Eh?Eh! (new)

Eh?Eh! Joel wrote: "i was making a simpsons joke, because i thought you were... ("lowenstein... lowenstein...") maybe not."

Aww, I love that episode. "With a love that will echo through the ages...."

message 7: by j (new)

j well then apparently the simpsons joke was a reference i didn't get!

message 8: by j (new)

j Eh?Eh! wrote: "Joel wrote: "i was making a simpsons joke, because i thought you were... ("lowenstein... lowenstein...") maybe not."

Aww, I love that episode. "With a love that will echo through the ages....""

yes, yes, it's all a rich tapestry.

message 9: by David (new) - added it

David I'd be glad to change my name. But it's probably too much paperwork.

message 10: by David (new) - added it

David I just don't like the name Kowalski. Never have. It's too clunky (at least to English-speaking ears). I never really cared for the name David either. I don't see myself as a David at all. I'm more of an Aloysius.

message 11: by Eh?Eh! (new)

Eh?Eh! Mario Bommeraju?? Wow, hahaha!

message 12: by David (last edited Dec 16, 2011 11:39AM) (new) - added it

David You should change your GR name to Mario Bommeraju. Try it out for awhile, BB.

Regardless, I think that's what I'll call you from now on.

message 13: by Eh?Eh! (new)

Eh?Eh! Bird Brian wrote: "They were not concurrent wishes, Eh!"

((((Bird Brian!))))
They should have been, Mario Bommeraju. I love the combination.

message 14: by Karla (new)

Karla Most hilarious non-review ever!

Signed, a girl who would change her name to Rüdiger in a heartbeat (if not for the messy paperwork)

message 15: by Kristen (new)

Kristen I had some Kowalski liversausage the other day, it was delicious!

message 16: by David (new) - added it

David Kristen wrote: "I had some Kowalski liversausage the other day, it was delicious!"


message 17: by Kristen (new)

Kristen My brother's first job was at the Kowlaski meat market. He helped make the sausage.
True Story.

message 18: by David (new) - added it

David Thanks, Karla!

message 19: by David (new) - added it

David Another great association for the Kowalski name. Sausages.

message 20: by Kristen (new)

Kristen Not just sausages mind you but high quality luncheon meats of all sorts.
Man, I wish I had a brand of kielbasa named after me!

message 21: by David (new) - added it

David Man, I wish I had a brand of kielbasa named after me!

I don't know... It's an awful lot of pressure...

message 22: by David (new) - added it

David Bird Brian wrote: "When you introduce yourself, you should always add:
"...Perhaps you've heard of my famous sausage?""

Again. That's kind of setting the bar pretty high, Mario.

I don't want to write a check I can't pay.

message 23: by Jessica (new)

Jessica Wait, your first name is David?

message 24: by Michelle (last edited Dec 17, 2011 09:14AM) (new)

Michelle I thought it was Darren.

message 25: by Miriam (new)

Miriam David I'd be glad to change my name. But it's probably too much paperwork.

You should get married. It is easy to change your name on the license paperwork.

message 26: by David (new)

David Kowalski I think the name is just dandy.

message 27: by David (last edited Dec 22, 2011 12:55PM) (new) - added it

David Holy crap, David Kowalski. Are you the David Kowalski who wrote this book? (If so, you should have an author profile rather than a groundling profile.)

I have a difficult time believing Polish people emigrated to Australia. They biologically need a more miserable climate, I think.

message 28: by Miriam (new)

Miriam Australia has climactic misery, it's just of a different sort than Poland.

message 29: by David (last edited Dec 22, 2011 02:51PM) (new) - added it

David Yeah. Polacks dig the more Siberian version of misery. Or at least that's what we're used to anyway.

message 30: by Miriam (new)

Miriam Hence South Bend.

message 31: by Pinky (new) - added it

Pinky How'd I miss this?

Re point 5, "Kowalski" is an AWESOME song by Primal Scream. And it's a song about point 6.

And Vanishing Point is also awesome.

Meanwhile, so are you!

message 32: by David (last edited Dec 23, 2011 07:44AM) (new) - added it

David Mike wrote: "How'd I miss this?"

Lack of proficiency in stalking.

Work on that.

I'd be awesomer if my name were Heath Ironsteel.

message 33: by Richard (new)

Richard Heath, I loved the non-review and can identify with the wish to change the name. I stupidly told my middle name to somebody in grade school and was teased mercilessly for a long time. Grade school kids can be monsters.

message 34: by David (new) - added it

David Your first name's Dick (essentially). How much worse can it get?

message 35: by Richard (new)

Richard David wrote: "Your first name's Dick (essentially). How much worse can it get?"

You've got a point there. I guess I should be thankful nobody in my grade school thought of it too.

message 36: by J.T. (new)

J.T. SHEA This is the best non-review I've yet read! Also the most gloriously off-topic Goodreads post. Keep up the bad work!

Slightly more seriously, I've just begun reading 'THE COMPANY OF THE DEAD' and it's great so far.

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