On November 13th, a new novel, The Lawgiver, went on sale. I was scrolling through the New York Times Book Review and read that the same fellow who saw his book The Caine Mutiny win the Pulitzer Prize in 1952 and Humphrey Bogart play the leading role in the film, had released his latest book. Yep, Herman Wouk, at 97, has a new novel out this holiday season, and is a good deal into writing his next one.
This was an absolute hoot to learn, and then I scrolled a bit further down the page. There I found another article which stated that Phillip Roth has declared that he is done writing at 80. Eighty? And throw away another two decades of productivity? I’ll bet you my lunch we’ll see another book from Roth. He won’t be able to help himself. I remember Kurt Vonnegut kept saying, with each of the last five or so books, that it was his last. Vonnegut did not write his last book. Death simply got him before he could write another one.
The fact is that writers don’t retire or stop writing before they die. We aren’t capable of it. Writing is how we come to see, and more importantly, process the world. When asked if he would be stopping, Wouk asked the interviewer what else he would do if he didn’t write. Indeed, a lifetime spent honing a skill and fashioning a lifestyle of writing does not end like a job at the bank or wind to conclusion like some corporate executive post.
I am just as impressed as you are that Mr. Wouk has given us another novel. My hat is off to him. But I am not surprised. The unexpected and the unexplainable would be if he hadn’t.