Abandoned Books

Reviews of books and authors not much discussed on the web.

Name:
Location: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Friday, January 02, 2009

Status Update, some words on Herman Wouk


Hey,


Well, a happy new year to the twenty eight people who read this thing.


The original plan was for me to do Wouk next -- I've changed my mind, though. I had a mini-epiphany where I suddenly realized that Life Was Short and It Was A Long Cold Night Out There and that I Didn't Want to Spend It With Wouk.


So, first of all a sketch on how it's really gonna go - then a minute or two saying what I want to say on Wouk. The next big "literary" writer will definitely be John O'Hara, and I'm not just saying that this time -- I finished APPOINTMENT IN SAMARRA over the holidays. We're also going to be looking at A RAGE TO LIVE, BUTTERFIELD 8, TEN NORTH FREDERICK, FROM THE TERRACE and some kind of collection of his short stories.


The problem here is that most of these will be massive to read -- I just got A RAGE TO LIVE today and it's squatting on my pile of books malevolently, like a toad you find in a Mexican cave. So I'm probably going to space things out with an author or two from the popular side of the spectrum, just because I want to be sure to keep the updates here reasonably regular. I'm actually going out to a used bookstore tomorrow, we'll see. Two ideas that occur to me are Charlotte Armstrong, absolutely forgotten today but in her day a well known writer of suspense novels, and Henry Morton Robinson's THE CARDINAL, which I know nothing about except that it was, apparently, pretty damn popular in 1950 and that it's about, uh, a Cardinal.


(If you're curious what I'm reading right now, well, it's Doc Savage in THE GOLDEN PERIL/DEATH IN SILVER, which is pretty kickin' because Doc Savage is pretty kickin', truthfully. I also got G.K. Chesterton's THE EVERLASTING MAN -- I like Chesterton, particularly his nonfiction apologetics like ORTHODOXY. Neither really would fit into this blog, though.)


Wouk does, and let's finish up this brief post with my thoughts on Wouk. I couldn't face trying to read THE WINDS OF WAR/WAR AND REMEMBRANCE, as I was a kid when Robert Mitchum starred in the TV miniseries -- which I also didn't watch, actually, but reminds me of what I would now call a Forrest Gump type tale, where our heroes meet influential people and are in important places of their particular historical period. I absolutely loathe Forrest Gump type historical novels, a subject to which I'll no doubt return in another post sometime. There was DON'T STOP THE CARNIVAL, which is supposed to be funny but then again this is Wouk we're talking about , Earnest is his middle name. So I have my doubts. Although Jimmy Buffet either did or tried to put on a musical version, and that really is funny.


I do like YOUNGBLOOD HAWKE, which is one of those "young writer with a dream" type of books, probably because I'm just a sucker for "young writer with a dream" type of books. It is, as I remember, a pretty good picture of publishing in the Forties and Fifties, and worth reading if you're an aspiring author, or just interested in literary culture of the time. Wouk was always good at getting the details right. It suffers from the rather banal fact that writer books are usually spiritual books about the life of the mind, if they're about anything at all, and Wouk isn't really comfortable about that so he shoehorns in some bullshit soap opera plot just to keep all the interesting reportage moving. I also seem to remember a lot of labored symbolism -- the pen that fails, anybody? Still, if you like this sort of thing, "writer makes good", this will be the sort of thing you'll like, trust me.


I remember glancing at parts of MARJORIE MORNINGSTAR. Again, a lot of good reportage, this time of small time theater in the Thirties and Forties. This time I remember the soap opera stuff is rather better focused -- although it amuses me/depresses me that a lot of women seem to gravitate to this book for Marjorie's freedom, only to come crashing down when Wouk decides that the only thing Marjorie really needed was a good husband and a place in the suburbs. Wouk is a good example of how ideology can kill storytelling -- in Wouk often you can literally feel him stomping on the brake in the narrative and wrenching the damn thing to where he thinks it should go. It's that dislocating.


(And note, I say this as somebody who would generally put himself in Wouk's camp philosophically. You can't just criticize ideologically based fiction when it's ideology you don't like. Well, you can, but you'll end up looking like a hack. This is a common fault among conservative critics, who ably see the motes in their neighbor's eyes and ignore the beams in their own. Wouk deserved alot more grief than he generally got for this stamping on the brake, for one of the virtues of stories is their independent nature, their creation of a world seperate even from the intentions of the author. It's one of the miracles of life, actually, and Wouk seemed never to be able to accept it.)


Which leaves THE CAINE MUTINY, which I've actually read twice and don't really feel a pressing need to ever read again. And again, we have excellent reportage, this time of service on a nowhere boat during the early stages of the war. (Wouk really took that "write what you know" stuff to heart.) And this time we have an effective thriller plot, which is probably why this is the best remembered of Wouk's books. And again, we have that stomp/swerve feeling in the narrative, where the story Wouk wants to tell (service in a war requires self-abnegation to a higher cause, no matter how inconvenient) is at odds with the story he's actually telling ('bad guys" in war can lie under your own banner). I wonder if post-Modernists interested in looking at how narratives undercut themselves ever check out Wouk, 'cause he's pretty much the poster boy of it.

Do you need to read Wouk? No. Putting aside YOUNGBLOOD HAWKE, which is more a personal pecadillo thing than anything else, the only novel even of interest is CAINE MUTINY, and this is a case where the movie's as good or better. After all, you get Bogart as Queeg there, and it's no small thing to watch him move those damn red balls around in hand? Remember? That whole click/click thing? Awesome stuff.


Wouk is the rich man's Leon Uris, with all that entails. His strength is reportage, and it's very good reportage, very comprehensive and interesting details about whatever. It's no accident that the first half of his books are generally better, that's where the scene setting stuff really shines. Wouk was a better writer than Uris, but his problem actually is pretty much the same -- he's kind of clunky with the story aspects of things. Which, you know, is why we're here and all that.

17 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for the update. I was worried that Wouk would bog you down.

Two suggestions for you.

Irish novelist Brian Moore. Graham Greene called him his favourite living author.

His best known works are "The Luck of Ginger Coffey" and "The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne". Other standards include the Booker prize nominated novels "Lies of Silence" and the "The Doctor's Wife".

Helen McInnes who was a bestselling thriller writer in the 60's, did even better in the U.S. than Ian Fleming, believe it or not.

4:11 PM  
Blogger Doug Bassett said...

Thanks for the suggestions. I'll look into Moore.

Macinnes is actually on the list (yeah, there's a list, sort of) and we'll look at her at some point.

7:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The great advantage with Moore is his brevity. Three of the four titles I named in my first post are short (200 page plus), fast reads.

3:14 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I would disagree with you on Marjorie Morningstar. While in the end she is left in the suburbs, not having realized her dreams, I don't think Wouk is trying to say that this is where she belongs. It is clear from the narrative point of view of a former suitor of hers at this point that he feels it is rather tragic that this is what has become of her, and it questionable to the reader that she is happy in her traditional life. I think if anything the book speaks to the lack of choices and freedoms available to women at the time; Wouk can come off as overly moralistic, but I think this a knee-jerk reaction to his books.

3:21 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Whats's Up i am new to this, I stumbled upon this chat board I find It absolutely accommodating & its helped me out a lot. I hope to give something back and help other people like it has helped me.

Thank You, Catch You About.

10:56 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What's Happening im new here, I hit upon this website I find It truly helpful and it has helped me tons. I hope to give something back and help others like it has helped me.

Thank You, See You Around

2:27 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hiya i'm fresh on here, I hit upon this message board I have found It truly accessible & its helped me loads. I should be able to contribute and aid other people like its helped me.

Thank's, See You Later.

2:08 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Heya i am fresh here, I hit upon this message board I have found It exceedingly helpful & its helped me out a great deal. I hope to give something back and assist other people like it has helped me.

Thanks, See You Later

3:49 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm excited to discover this site. I want to to thank you for ones time for this fantastic read!! I definitely enjoyed every bit of it and I have you book marked to look at new stuff in your site.

my blog :: reputation management expert

6:42 AM  
Blogger oakleyses said...

nike outlet, polo outlet, louis vuitton outlet, longchamp outlet, prada outlet, michael kors outlet, nike free, tory burch outlet, michael kors outlet store, uggs outlet, christian louboutin outlet, jordan shoes, oakley sunglasses wholesale, ray ban sunglasses, oakley sunglasses, nike air max, longchamp outlet, michael kors outlet online, michael kors outlet, prada handbags, polo ralph lauren outlet online, louis vuitton outlet, longchamp outlet, christian louboutin, burberry outlet, louis vuitton outlet, ugg boots, gucci handbags, nike air max, michael kors outlet online, louis vuitton, tiffany and co, louis vuitton, christian louboutin shoes, uggs on sale, replica watches, ray ban sunglasses, oakley sunglasses, ugg boots, replica watches, christian louboutin uk, burberry handbags, michael kors outlet online, tiffany jewelry, uggs outlet

11:18 PM  
Blogger oakleyses said...

coach outlet, sac hermes, nike tn, louboutin pas cher, jordan pas cher, new balance, sac longchamp pas cher, true religion outlet, hogan outlet, michael kors pas cher, hollister pas cher, air max, nike roshe, longchamp pas cher, timberland pas cher, hollister uk, burberry pas cher, coach outlet, lululemon canada, nike blazer pas cher, true religion outlet, polo lacoste, ray ban pas cher, coach outlet store online, north face, michael kors outlet, nike air max, guess pas cher, kate spade, chanel handbags, ray ban uk, nike free run, kate spade outlet, true religion outlet, oakley pas cher, true religion jeans, north face uk, sac vanessa bruno, michael kors, converse pas cher, nike air force, coach purses, michael kors, vans pas cher, polo ralph lauren

11:21 PM  
Blogger oakleyses said...

polo lacoste, sac vanessa bruno, ray ban pas cher, hollister pas cher, nike free run, nike air force, michael kors, north face, hogan outlet, coach purses, oakley pas cher, new balance, sac longchamp pas cher, nike air max, coach outlet, true religion jeans, chanel handbags, north face uk, polo ralph lauren, kate spade, longchamp pas cher, michael kors, coach outlet, timberland pas cher, nike blazer pas cher, burberry pas cher, true religion outlet, louboutin pas cher, nike tn, nike roshe, sac hermes, air max, lululemon canada, jordan pas cher, guess pas cher, vans pas cher, true religion outlet, converse pas cher, true religion outlet, kate spade outlet, michael kors outlet, ray ban uk, coach outlet store online, michael kors pas cher, hollister uk

11:29 PM  
Blogger oakleyses said...

hollister, louis vuitton, montre pas cher, pandora jewelry, links of london, louis vuitton, thomas sabo, lancel, louis vuitton, coach outlet, louboutin, hollister, replica watches, nike air max, converse, vans, doke gabbana, michael kors outlet, ugg, ugg,uggs,uggs canada, supra shoes, pandora jewelry, louis vuitton, pandora uk, ugg,ugg australia,ugg italia, ralph lauren, swarovski crystal, swarovski, karen millen uk, juicy couture outlet, oakley, ray ban, converse outlet, ugg pas cher, louis vuitton, michael kors outlet online, gucci, michael kors handbags, ugg uk, iphone 6 cases, juicy couture outlet, timberland boots, pandora charms, wedding dresses, toms shoes, marc jacobs

11:34 PM  
Blogger 林磊 said...

2015-10-7leilei
Lerbron James Shoes For Sale
michael kors uk
louis vuitton outlet online
Michael Kors Handbags Outlet
Abercrombie and Fitch Outlet
Christian Louboutin Outlet Authentic sneakers
Louis Vuitton Handbags Outlet
coach outlet
ray-ban sunglasses,ray ban sunglasses,ray bans,rayban,ray ban wayfarer,raybans,ray ban glasses,ray ban aviators,ray ban clubmaster,ray ban eyeglasses,cheap ray bans,ray bans sunglasses,ray ban aviator,ray bands,fake ray bans,ray ban prescription glasses,ray ban outlet,ray ban canada,ray ban sunglasses sale,ray ban sale
michael kors uk
ugg boots sale
nike trainers
Louis Vuitton Handbags Outlet Stores
louis vuitton handbags
uggs sale
cheap ugg boots
canada goose jackets
Ralph Lauren UK
hollister uk sale
Hollister Cheap Hollister Clothing Outlet Store
Mont Blanc Pens
Louis Vuitton Handbags Discount
michael kors outlet
ugg outlet
Coach Outlet Discount Sale

2:08 AM  
Blogger 林磊 said...

2015-10-7leilei
Lerbron James Shoes For Sale
michael kors uk
louis vuitton outlet online
Michael Kors Handbags Outlet
Abercrombie and Fitch Outlet
Christian Louboutin Outlet Authentic sneakers
Louis Vuitton Handbags Outlet
coach outlet
ray-ban sunglasses,ray ban sunglasses,ray bans,rayban,ray ban wayfarer,raybans,ray ban glasses,ray ban aviators,ray ban clubmaster,ray ban eyeglasses,cheap ray bans,ray bans sunglasses,ray ban aviator,ray bands,fake ray bans,ray ban prescription glasses,ray ban outlet,ray ban canada,ray ban sunglasses sale,ray ban sale
michael kors uk
ugg boots sale
nike trainers
Louis Vuitton Handbags Outlet Stores
louis vuitton handbags
uggs sale
cheap ugg boots
canada goose jackets
Ralph Lauren UK
hollister uk sale
Hollister Cheap Hollister Clothing Outlet Store
Mont Blanc Pens
Louis Vuitton Handbags Discount
michael kors outlet
ugg outlet
Coach Outlet Discount Sale

2:09 AM  
Blogger 艾丰 said...

jianbin1208
nike soccer shoes
coach outlet,coach outlet online,coach outlet store
true religion jeans,cheap true religion jeans,true religion jeans wholesale,true religion outlet,true religion sale,true religion outlet online
oakley sunglasses wholesale
michael kors handbags sale
ugg boots
oakley sunglasses cheap
ray ban sunglasses outlet,ray ban usa,ray ban sunglasses,ray ban,rayban,ray bans,rayban sunglasses,cheap ray ban,ray ban outlet,ray-ban,raybans,ray ban wayfarer,ray-ban sunglasses
barbour clothing
nba jerseys wholesale
oakland raiders
hollister shirts
michael kors handbags clearance
michael kors handbags wholesale
michael kors uk
canada goose outlet
true religion jeans
ysl outlet online
chanel outlet store online
pittsburgh steelers
san antonio spurs
louis vuitton bags on sale
longchamp outlet online
cheap ray ban sunglasses
canada goose sale
calvin klein,calvin klein outlet online,calvin klein wholesale,calvin klein shoes,calvin klein underwear,calvin klein coats,calvin klein handbags
michael kors outlet sale
tory burch handbags
prada handbags
puma shoes
michael kors handbags wholesale

1:00 AM  
Blogger LCc 03 said...

adidas ultra boost
ultra boost
louboutin shoes
michael kors purses
nike air huarache
kobe shoes
cheap jordans
hermes belt
lacoste outlet
michael kors outlet online

10:18 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home