May 28, 2019
MarkBernstein.org
 

Sailor and Fiddler: Reflections of a 100-Year-Old Author

Rather than a memoir, this volume is a pleasant afternoon in the company of and old man who was always good company. Wouk, who recently died at age 103, wrote The Caine Mutiny, War and Remembrance, The Hope, and The Glory. He wrote much more. He brought the The Caine Mutiny Court Martial to Broadway after seeing a Don Juan In Hell, with Charles Laughton and Charles Boyer. He was very much a bridge to another age.

A would-be biographer told Wouk that his life had two facets: the sailor of Caine and War and Remembrance and the rooftop fiddler of his books on the holocaust, on Israel, and his nonfiction discussions of Judaism. Wouk nods toward that framework here, in structure as well as title, but Jewishness pervades all his work. Wouk seldom talks much about his reading life here, alas, and it’s a pity that we hear little about his reactions to Roth and Bellow, or for Uris and Michener. Caine comes a few years after The Naked and The Dead, but it’s Mr. Roberts (Thomas Heggen, 1946) that spurs Wouk to drop his gag writing and mine his wartime experience. If Michener’s late The Novel is mostly about Michener, I fancy its protagonist might have a bit of Wouk mixed in as well.