“In terms of narrative, my boy, there’s nothing but the Bible for sheer storytelling. How do you get at something that has already been done so perfectly? I suppose that explains my ‘fixation’…”
Just after reading that Philip Roth is putting down his pen at the age of 78, I came across a New York Times story by Brooks Barnes sporting this jaunty headline, “At 97, He has a Book (or 2) Left.” The story is about Herman Wouk, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Caine Mutiny, Marjorie Morningstar, and The Winds of War. Herman may almost be hitting 100, but he’s still going strong. So strong, in fact, that he’s just come out with a brand-new novel. It’s being published by Simon & Schuster, the same firm that published his very first book, Aurora Dawn, which hit the shelves in 1947 — more than 60 years ago.
Herman’s new novel, The Lawgiver, weaves a light-hearted tale told via social media. Yup, that’s right. Hermie may be almost a century old, but he’s no slouch with his head in the sand His novel features an innovative format that uses text messages, memos, e-mails, and even Skype transcripts to corral a subject he’s been trying to tackle for decades: Moses.
In a zany literary escapade, Herman decided to take a fresh approach to Moses by building a story around a fictional group of modern media types who are making a movie about Moses. Woven into the story are some ambitious themes. According to the Times interview, Herman touches on “rekindled love, financial-hide-and-seek, religious heritage, and familial ties.” It also takes a moving look at Herman’s 66-year marriage to Betty Sarah Wouk, who served as his agent and creative supporter. Betty Sarah never entered his office, but she played a “mighty” role in his writing life. He read every chapter of The Caine Mutiny to her as he was creating it. At one point, she told him to dump a character. Says Herman: “Pouf. Six months of work gone in an instant.” She was always right, he adds.
Herman does yoga, works with a personal trainer — and has no desire to stop writing. “Sometimes, when I’m down, I feel like I’ve shot my bolt. But it passes, and I go back to the computer.” His next book is already in the works. Bravo, Herman! Write on.