Read Inside, Outside by Herman Wouk Free Online
Book Title: Inside, Outside|
The author of the book: Herman Wouk
Loaded: 2662 times
Reader ratings: 3.6
Edition: Back Bay Books
Date of issue: November 1st 1995
ISBN 13: 9780316955294
Format files: PDF
The size of the: 2.52 MB
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I read and admired another Wouk title a couple years ago. He was brought to mind again by an article on the recent passing of Gore Vidal. Specifically, that article questions the assumption (held by certain gatekeepers, I suppose) that "the great postwar novelists" were Vidal, Mailer, and Capote. Herman Wouk is of the same generation, and the article says his fiction easily surpasses theirs (as does the work of a completely forgotten writer named Ross Lockridge, who's now in my reading queue). (I nurture a sense of irritation with unjustified recognition for some works occurring at the expense of others.)
Anyway, in this story, I. David Goodkind is a Jewish scholar hired by the Nixon White House to write first drafts of speeches and to facilitate interaction with a new Israeli ambassador. His job is not demanding, and he ends up spending his free time writing a chatty family history. The description of his family's origins in Russia and his own early years in New York has a deceptively spontaneous feel, with frequent interruptions in the narrative for insertion of background info (e.g., "A reader here and there may not know the old deerfly chestnut, and it's vital to my story, so here is a quick run-through..."). Nevertheless, it's as good a coming-of-age novel as we're likely to find, with a depth of texture and detail that makes it feel a lot more like personal history than fiction. He comments at one point that he's providing a "stereoscopic view" of his youth -- "one eye that of a boy, the other that of a chilly old tax lawyer, with little in common but the name." That dynamic is basic to memoir.
The book's title has to do with the discontinuity between family/cultural traditions and the intrusive outside world of Shaygets (i.e., heathens) -- a world in which even many Jews no longer bother to eat kosher or observe the Sabbath. Goodkind discusses many of the restrictions that are put on the line when he interacts with that world (not writing on Shavuos, for example -- a problem when Shavuos coincides with his college exams). There's a significant period in his life when he "misbehaves," as a friend puts it, but for him, soul-searching about his identity leads to a reaffirmation of the Inside world. (His first initial stands for Israel, a name that causes him so much trouble while he's growing up that he feels defensive about it. So the story's conclusion is rather moving:
And what do they call you, Israel or David?"
Slight pause. Then Pop's Yisroelke, enjoying a wry Yankee joke she may not get, smiles back.
"Call me Israel."
In that respect, this reminds me very much of another significant novel written at about the same time, Angle of Repose .
Despite his bestseller status, Herman Wouk may indeed be underrated. I intend to read the rest of his works.
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Read information about the authorHerman Wouk is a bestselling, Pulitzer Prize-winning Jewish American author with a number of notable novels to his credit, including The Caine Mutiny, The Winds of War, and War and Remembrance.
Herman Wouk was born in New York City into a Jewish family that had emigrated from Russia. After a childhood and adolescence in the Bronx and a high school diploma from Townsend Harris High School, he earned a B.A. from Columbia University in 1934, where he was a member of the Pi Lambda Phi fraternity and studied under philosopher Irwin Edman. Soon thereafter, he became a radio dramatist, working in David Freedman's "Joke Factory" and later with Fred Allen for five years and then, in 1941, for the United States government, writing radio spots to sell war bonds. He lived a fairly secular lifestyle in his early 20s before deciding to return to a more traditional Jewish way of life, modeled after that of his grandfather, in his mid-20s.
Wouk joined the United States Navy and served in the Pacific Theater, an experience he later characterized as educational; "I learned about machinery, I learned how men behaved under pressure, and I learned about Americans." Wouk served as an officer aboard two destroyer minesweepers (DMS), the USS Zane and USS Southard, becoming executive officer of the latter. He started writing a novel, Aurora Dawn, during off-duty hours aboard ship. Wouk sent a copy of the opening chapters to Irwin Edman who quoted a few pages verbatim to a New York editor. The result was a publisher's contract sent to Wouk's ship, then off the coast of Okinawa. The novel was published in 1947 and became a Book of the Month Club main selection. His second novel, City Boy, proved to be a commercial disappointment at the time of its initial publication in 1948.
While writing his next novel, Wouk read each chapter as it was completed to his wife, who remarked at one point that if they didn't like this one, he'd better take up another line of work (a line he would give to the character of the editor Jeannie Fry in his 1962 novel Youngblood Hawke). The novel, The Caine Mutiny (1951), went on to win the Pulitzer Prize. A huge best-seller, drawing from his wartime experiences aboard minesweepers during World War II, The Caine Mutiny was adapted by the author into a Broadway play called The Caine Mutiny Court Martial, and was later made into a film, with Humphrey Bogart portraying Lt. Commander Philip Francis Queeg, captain of the fictional USS Caine. Some Navy personnel complained at the time that Wouk had taken every twitch of every commanding officer in the Navy and put them all into one character, but Captain Queeg has endured as one of the great characters in American fiction.
He married Betty Sarah Brown in 1945, with whom he had three sons: Abraham, Nathanial, and Joseph. He became a fulltime writer in 1946 to support his growing family. His first-born son, Abraham Isaac Wouk, died in a tragic accident as a child; Wouk later dedicated War and Remembrance (1978) to him with the Biblical words, "He will destroy death forever."
In 1998, Wouk received the Guardian of Zion Award.
Wouk is still alive as of March 2014 and living in California.
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