(Current fiction & past quality fiction)
“The Lawgiver” (Simon & Schuster) by Herman Wouk, author of such classics as “The Caine Mutiny” (1951), “Marjorie Morningstar” (1955), “Youngblood Hawke” (1961), “Don’t Stop the Carnival” (1965), “The Winds of War” (1971), “War and Remembrance” (1978), and “Inside, Outside” (1985), rates a modest appraisal as, well, let’s say “different.”
According to the publisher, for more than 50 years, the legendary author has dreamed of writing a novel about the life of Moses. Finally, at age 97, he has found an ingeniously witty way to tell the tale in “The Lawgiver,” a romantic and suspenseful epistolary novel about a group of people trying to make a movie about Moses in the present day. The story emerges from letters, memos, e-mails, journals, news articles, recorded talk, Skype transcripts, and text messages. The result, unfortunately, is choppy, in Examiner’s opinion.
At the center of “The Lawgiver” is Margo Solovei, a brilliant young writer-director who has rejected her rabbinical father’s strict Jewish upbringing to pursue a career in the arts. When an Australian multibillionaire promises to finance a movie about Moses if the script meets certain standards, Margo does everything she can to land the job, including a reunion with her estranged first love, an influential lawyer with whom she still has unfinished business.
Wouk made excerpts available on his website. Here’s a sample:
“Surely if this investor is at all serious, his proposal can’t hang on getting that mulish ancient to write the film . . .” Come to think of it, Examiner lost interest after a few more sentences. The thing’s too choppy; lot of dialogue in film script format.
His later works include “The Hope” (1993), “The Glory” (1994), and “A Hole in Texas” (2004). Among Wouk’s laurels are the 1952 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction for “The Caine Mutiny”; the cover of Time magazine for “Marjorie Morningstar,” the bestselling novel of that year; and the cultural phenomenon of “The Winds of War” and “War and Remembrance,” which he wrote over a 13-year period and which went on to become two of the most popular novels and TV miniseries events of the 1970s and 1980s. In 1998, he received the Guardian of Zion Award for support of Israel. In 2008, Wouk was honored with the first Library of Congress Fiction Award, to be known as the Herman Wouk Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Writing of Fiction. He lives in Palm Springs, California, where Examiner just happened to be while the reclusive Wouk gave a rare interview to Brooks Barnes for The New York Times. The piece noted that “Mr. Wouk’s satirical (and accurate) depiction of Hollywood’s bizarre ins and outs is merciless, with producers of the Moses movie urgently demanding that Margolit “please keep God’s lines short and few.” Barnes wrote that Wouk has another book in the works. Examiner hopes he follows a more traditional trajectory – enough of the choppy stuff.