I just went through my ritual finishing a Pulitzer with Wouk’s ’52 winner The Caine Mutiny and it reminded me of my upbringing just a little. I have a series of things that I do to give myself a sense of closure after completing one of our tasked books. When I finish one of the books, I get out my moleskin which has a list in the back in chronological order of the Pulitzer winners, the years the won, and the page numbers of the editions I have. I cross off the book and calculate how many pages I have read so far. Then I calculate the percentage of pages read. Finally I calculate the percentage of books read. After this I place the book on a books shelf that contains all of the books I have read that I own to separate my library between the books that I own that I have not read from the books that I have. Finally, I usually smoke a cigarette and type up a blog on my phone with a WordPress app.
Through the process of reading this book and some the personal circumstance that has surrounded my time of reading it, I have been transported back to a time that this book has put in stark relief. I started reading this book because I thought it would be a good book to read to my older brother who is currently has been severely ill but is on the mend. My brother Aaron had a serious heart condition that has left him on his back in a hospital bed for over two months now with a hole in his throat leaving him mostly without the ability to talk. Aaron is a former Marine. I suppose to give you all a better sense of the scope of the importance of the military in my family I will give a short list of the former service men and women in my family but I will limit it to my near extended family. Mother (Navy) Father (Navy) Brother Anthony (Marine Major) Aaron (Marine) Cousin Denium (Army DI) Cousin Annie (Army) her husband Dave (Army) Uncle Mitch (Navy) Uncle Norman (Army/Navy) Grandpa Horace (Army WWII). If I have forgotten anyone I apologize. Someone please correct me.
Given all of this though, I thought it would be a good idea to read this war novel to my brother while he is recovering. It didn’t pan out that way, but I did finish this book quickly and found new insights into how my family operates. The military has a profound impact on a person and I have seen how the military can have both positive and negative effects on people. The truth of the matter is that it can but doesn’t always change people. Those that do change only change to what they already had within them to be but maybe the service only seeks to intensify those aspects of their nature. I don’t know, but I truly enjoyed this novel and from my experience with my family I found that much of what I read to be ring true with my experiences.
Wouk paints a very complicated picture of his events. Nothing is ever black and white and straightforward though the military would prefer for things to be. Wouk toes a very very final line throughout this book and I find that he does it masterfully. In many respects this novel seems like a pretty straightforward genre fiction story. In other ways though, Wouk subverts that. The character Greenwald is a perfect example of how Wouk subverts and really calls into question the whole occasion of even sort of Wouk writing such a novel. Wouk has a piercing depth of insight in the human condition that he addresses rapid fire and without too much pretense which I find absolutely remarkable. In my estimation, Wouk has to be one of the most underrated writers of the 20th century and I would recommend this novel to anyone anywhere. There are many many moments of this novel that are not convincing in the slightest but Wouk does some rather ingenious things throughout that caught my quite pleasantly off guard.
Great novel and I am glad for having read it.