THE WORDS OF WOUK
MOST NOVELISTS PROBABLY SUFFER some degree of “postpartum” depression when they finish a book and must bid their characters farewell. Not Herman Wouk, author of The Winds of War and the Pulitzer Prize-winning The Caine Mutiny, among others. “I’ve never said goodbye to the characters because I so often revisit them,” he says. “There has always been talk of making a musical of Marjorie Morningstar. A few years ago, amazingly, the Chinese did a version of The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial.” Coincidentally, Wouk, 78, and his wife of 48 years, Betty Sarah, live in a Palm Springs house once owned by Robert Wagner and Natalie Wood, who played the title role in Marjorie Morningstar.
The appeal of the stone house is its seclusion and proximity to hiking trails where Wouk does much of his plotting. “I start writing as early in the morning as possible,” he says, “and quit as late in the day as I can—usually when I run out of the urge to go on.”
That urge persisted during the writing of his current best-seller. “It just seemed to be a marvelous story,” says Wouk. “The Jewish people rising out of the ashes of the Holocaust and creating one of the great armies of the world in a generation.”
The Hope represents a dovetailing of Wouk’s passions: storytelling and Judaism. He belongs to an Orthodox synagogue, leaches a weekly Talmud class and more than 30 years ago explained the nature of his faith in This Is My God. “I did state my religious attitude in that book,” he says. “If you look hard you can see in my work that bedrock. But I’m not a preacher. I’m a novelist.”