“In terms of narrative … 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’…” Herman Wouk
Some time ago, a New York Times story by Brooks Barnes sported this jaunty headline: “At 97, He has a Book (or 2) Left.” The story was about Herman Wouk, whose birthday would have been this week, on May 27. The Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Caine Mutiny, Marjorie Morningstar, and The Winds of War, Herman was almost hitting 100 at the time the Times story appeared, but he was still going strong.
So strong, in fact, that, even as he was aproaching 100, he had just come out with a brand-new novel. It was published by Simon & Schuster, the same firm that published his very first book, Aurora Dawn, which hit the shelves in 1947 — more than 70 years before.
Herman’s novel, The Lawgiver, wove a lighthearted tale told via social media. Yup, that’s right. Hermie was be almost a century old, but he was no slouch with his head in the sand! His novel featured an innovative format that used text messages, memos, e-mails, and even Skype transcripts to corral a subject he had wanted 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 him. Woven into the story were some ambitious themes. According to the Times interview, Herman touched on “rekindled love, religious heritage, and familial ties.”
It also gave 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.
Well into his ’90s, Herman was practicing yoga and working with a personal trainer — and still writing away. “Sometimes, when I’m down, I feel like I’ve shot my bolt. But it passes, and I go back to the computer.” Now that’s writing dangerously! Write on.
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