The other day I spotted The Caine Mutiny
sitting uncomfortably in the Denver Public Library
's "new books" section, and naturally wondered, since Caine
was published in 1951, what it was doing there. Turns out it was in a display of Pulitzer Prize winners
, but in a new (relatively--2003) paperback edition
, with a preface by its author, Herman Wouk.
was published Wouk, who at 90 continues to write novels
, had already written two of them, served on destroyer-minesweepers like the Caine
(well, not like the Caine)
and, from 1936
until the war,
written jokes for one of the top radio comedians, Fred Allen
, sorry, but I'm one of those creepy and decrepit fans
of old-time radio
, so to me that last by itself is enough to make Wouk a national treasure: he worked in the first truly national medium, big-time radio, and he was one of the best at it.
And think of all the people he must have known--starting, just for kicks, with Bogart
, who gave an indelible performance in the movie version of Caine.
Bowsley Crowther thought it was bogart-like.
Not to mention that he wrote at least one of the finest American novels of World War II, War and Remembrance,
and that throughout his career he's written about this country with (mostly, of course) affection and humor.
So where's the almost certainly great memoir? Actually, Wouk's preface for this Caine
is an excerpt, he says, but adds that the story of his "literary life" itself he has "laid aside, to get on with that life by writing a new novel."
Now that is good old-fashioned American optimism.
Update: Shouldn't Wouk get, like, a medal
or something? (Though he has
been voted into some secret lodge going under the name of the "Academy of Achievement
," which he probably isn't happy about.)
Update II: Here's the 1988 TV version
starring Brad Davis as Captain Queeg. Surely I saw it, but I don't remember a thing.
Update III: Wait a minute. Brad Davis
as the, er, ball-rolling
Captain Queeg? No way
I would forget that. And don't call me Shirley.