Herman Wouk Died at Age 104: His Novel, "The Winds of War," Is Relevant Today

So I keep meaning to get back to my blog, but one thing or another always intrudes: new stories and chapters to write (a new story titled “The Wall” will soon appear in The Antioch Review), grass to mow (Thursday), a hike in the woods (yesterday). This morning I just read of the death of Herman Wouk in the NY Times (here), a novelist I read oh-so-many years ago and whose books I still remember fondly, especially The Winds of War (1971), which I read in my early years, soon after the book was published.

It’s essentially a book about World War II that doesn’t focus on the battles and and the long arc of the war circa 1941-45, but in the incremental build-up to the war starting in the late 1930s, focusing on the personal lives of the people who became caught up in it, and played some kind of role, even if it’s only a familiar one of being a citizen in a country at war. As I remember it, part of his vision was that the world stumbled into this war, not taking the danger of Adolph Hitler seriously enough until it was too late. It’s more subtle than many historical novels, and I put it in the company of a more recent historical novel, Dennis Lehane’s The Given Day (2008), which is about the Boston police strike of 1918, and so much more. I certainly hope this is just a fear and not a prophecy, but at times it feels we’re currently living through a phase of stumbling into another great war, by stoking the fires of too many hotspots at once—North Korea, Iran, Russia, you name it. The meltdown of government in Venezuela is symbolic of how things can go bad in a short time and for reasons much of the world is ignorant of. You want a good book that’s symbolic of our times, and a great read of human dimensions, read his best book, The Winds of War, though he’s also known for The Caine Mutiny (1951), which was made into a classic Hollywood film that features Fred McMurray in one of his great roles, as a somewhat sinister writer. R.I.P., Herman Wouk! Since he lived to the age of 104, he no doubt had a long, great life.

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