As a sprightly 85-year-old, Herman Wouk was conflicted when he was given a lifetime achievement recognition by the National Jewish Book Awards at Y92 in Manhattan. “There’s a shadow of tombstone about it,” he cracked. “Thank you for the award but hold the gold watch.”
Ever since he wrote his Pulitzer Prize-winning “The Caine Mutiny,” he was typecast as a non-Jewish writer. Perhaps because, as he pointed out, most Jewish writers wrote about alienation.
“I had no sense of alienation. I had a heritage. It was in my blood, in my heart. So I wrote in an entirely different vein.” It was “a paradox of my career.”
He recalled sailing on the Queen Mary with this wife Sarah. On deck he met the prominent Polish-Jewish novelist Sholom Asch. “You’re the author of ‘The Caine Mutiny’!” Asch declared in astonishment. “I thought you’d be a big blond goy!”
At dinner, Wouk’s table had the same food as the other guests, but kosher. Each item was marked with a Star of David. Again, Asch was taken by surprise. “The author of ‘The Caine Mutiny’ keeps kosher and Sholom Ash doesn’t!”
Wouk , who wrote several bestsellers such as “Marjorie Morningstar” and “The Winds of War” died at age 103 on May 17 at his home in Palm Springs, Calif.