the breath of fresh air that is Herman Wouk's new book, The Lawgiver

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Today (and I report this breathlessly) I fell in love with Herman Wouk.  Sure, he's well into his nineties now, and yes, the world already claims him for his many masterpieces:  The Caine Mutiny, Marjorie Morningstar, The Winds of War, and War and Remembrance. I'm absolutely unoriginal with my little reader crush, but guess what?  I recently received an early copy of Wouk's latest, The Lawgiver, courtesy of his publisher, and let me get right to this:

It sings.

It sings not just once or twice, but on every page.  It is buoyant, and it is new.  It's the story of a man (Herman Wouk) who wants to write the Moses novel.  It's also the story of the mega-billionaire and the writer-director and the lawyer and the wife and the everybody else who gets in Wouk's way, pulling him into and out of some kind of grand movie scheme, wrapping him into their madness.  We get Wouk's notes on Wouk, Skype transcripts, file memos, text messages, newspaper blips, and gloriously clever notes on what a Moses movie might be.  We get confidential imaginings marched out for the world to see and promises made to be broken and little cracks about ninety-ish men, who may not do too well with curry and beer but are still as clever as any Gangnam dancing teen.

If The Lawgiver sounds, from my description, scattered, it is in fact anything but.  It is the finest epistolary novel I've read—suspenseful, human, hysterical, tender, a dose of something lively for an era gone glass-eyed with Twitter and TV.  I have been sitting here reading with a smile on my face.  The handwritten marginalia are fine.  The savvy Moses history zings.  The little loving that goes on between young people and the much less young is both old- and new-fashioned.  I don't think this book should be explained.  I'm not going to excerpt it.  And so it must be read. 

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