Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Herman Wouk at 100

My favourite reading place!

When I was a teenager or young adult there were a few books I read that I have since revisited because they left such an impression on me the first time. Gone With the Wind, Dr. Zhivago, Winds of War and its sequel War and Remembrance, are a few of those.

I was browsing the local Barnes and Noble the other day when I came across Sailor and Fiddler, Reflections of a 100 Year-Old Author, by Herman Wouk. I'm not sure I knew he was still alive, let alone how old he was.

It's a very short memoir, especially considering his long life, but what a treat it was to read. It doesn't contain much personal detail, focusing mostly on his literary career. He started out wanting to write comedy but says the war years influenced him to take on more serious subject matter. Wouk refers to literature as a "mug's game". One tidbit I found interesting was that he worked on more than one book at a time. For me, that's a validation that it's okay to read more than one at a time!

He talks about the TV mini-series based on Winds of War and War and Remembrance and how he and his wife Sarah, ( also referenced as BSW or Betty Sarah Wouk, who was also his agent!) wanted approval over what got advertised during its broadcast. They also did not want anything added to the films that couldn't be found in the novels. They would never have endorsed a Hollywood movie as they thought there was too much content for one film. I wish Herman Wouk had expressed his opinion on Robert Mitchum as Pug who was considered at the time to be a little long in the tooth for the role. I loved Robert Mitchum in anything so it worked for me!

The author briefly mentions his first born son, Abe, who drowned in a swimming pool when he was 5. He's never written of this incident before. Not surprisingly he says that he and Sarah never really did get over it. Abe is a "radiant memory" to his father and when Wouk dies he will be buried on one side of Abe. Sarah is already on the other side, having passed away a few years ago at age 90.

Wouk considered writing an autobiography at one time but Sarah told him he wasn't "that interesting a person". I think she was wrong. Thankfully he has journals going back to 1937 and has given permission to his surviving sons to use them as they see fit after he is gone.

In the book's conclusion Wouk refers to himself as a "cheerful centenarian". What a blessing to achieve 100 years and still be cheerful! And he has written this book. Amazing! I wish you many more cheerful and productive years Mr. Wouk.

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