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The Lawgiver: A Novel Hardcover – November 13, 2012

3.3 out of 5 stars 171 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Wouk has been trying to come up with a way to write a novel about Moses ever since he wrote The Caine Mutiny, for which he won the Pulitzer Prize in 1952. At age 97, the venerated author of panoramic best-sellers finally takes on the challenge of portraying the biblical lawgiver. But with a twist: this witty and wise epistolary novel is about a writer named Herman Wouk, who is having a devil of a time starting his novel about Moses. Herman’s struggle with this confounding project is interrupted by “the red-hot moviemaker of the hour,” who pesters him to write a screenplay instead. Through a barrage of e-mails, faxes, letters, and text messages, Herman, guided by his skeptical wife, Betty Sarah, agrees only to consult. So it is up to a bold young director, Margo Solovei, to write the anti–Cecil B. DeMille Moses screenplay. Margo has turned her back on her Orthodox upbringing and the mensch of a lawyer who stubbornly loves her, but she soon finds herself reconsidering her Jewish heritage and being single. Brisk, funny, and incisive, Wouk’s romantic comedy of art versus love slyly updates the story of the beloved star of his indelible novel Marjorie Morningstar (1955), while nimbly (at last!) retelling the story of Moses. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: This smart, playful novel, along with Wouk’s remarkably sustained literary exuberance, will garner major media attention and avid reader interest. --Donna Seaman


“A lighthearted and delightful tour de force.” (The Washington Times)

"The Lawgiver is an unadulterated delight, a compelling, old-fashioned story in sleek new-fashioned clothes. How fortunate it is for readers that Mr. Wouk, who published The Caine Mutiny when I was but four years old, has not lost an iota of his storytelling genius. The Lawgiver is fast, funny, romantic, and moving." (Stephen King)

"An engaging comedy/love story about present-day Hollywood." (USA Today)

"Mr. Wouk’s satirical (and accurate) depiction of Hollywood’s bizarre ins and outs is merciless." (The New York Times)

“Wouk makes commanding use of the epistolary form, and what emerges is an entertaining addition to his literary canon. It's clever without being too cutesy, revealing a writer who - at 96 - shows little sign of slowing down.” (Courier-Journal (Louisville, KY))

“[I] n some essential way, this book about a movie about a book is also about the very act of writing books. Wouk reminds us of the eternal value of storytelling while he shows 30- and 50- and 80-year-old whippersnappers how it’s done.” (Washington Post)

"“Read this one. You’ll smile all the way through.” (Hudson Valley News (NY))

“Readers will undoubtedly marvel at the ability of a ninety-seven year old author to produce a book with such an unusual format. Regardless of their opinion about the book’s design, anything written by Herman Wouk is worth reading and The Lawgiver is no exception.” (The Jerusalem Post)

“Honest, highly readable, entertaining." (Moment magazine)

“…The Lawgiver is a combination of sweet romantic comedy and sly Hollywood satire, and it is as much fun to read as it seems to have been to write….Wouk excels in channeling distinctive voices." (The Columbus Dispatch (OH))

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; First Edition edition (November 13, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9781451699388
  • ISBN-13: 978-1451699388
  • ASIN: 1451699387
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 1 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (171 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #940,906 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Hardcover
Ninety-seven-year-old Herman Wouk (or a fictionalized version of him) is minding his own business. And his business, as you know, is writing novels. He's finally tackling the ambitious project he's wanted to write for decades, the story of Moses. It is a huge coincidence, therefore, when a hot Hollywood producer finagles a meeting insisting that he's the only man for the job of writing a Moses screenplay.

Well, Mr. Wouk wants nothing to do with this. Meetings are refused until a rabbi intervenes. Ultimately, it is revealed that the epic film's funding--through unconventional sources--rests upon Wouk's participation. Under duress, he agrees to act as a consultant to the film, with final script approval. A screenwriter for this all-but-unwritable film must be found. Enter Margo Solovei, a young, independent film auteur who has eschewed her orthodox Jewish upbringing. And it is actually Margo who is at the novel's heart, as she pursues this project while dealing with producers, directors, actors, Herman Wouk, and any number of people tying her to her roots.

I doubt I can express how much I loved this novel! Oh, how I laughed! It's true that I am Jewish, and that I have worked in the film industry, so it's possible that the tale "spoke" to me more than it might to some, but Wouk's satire is dead on. Not just of an industry, but of human nature. I guess nearly a century of life gives a man some perspective. Also, as the Booklist reviewer astutely pointed out, there are subtle reflections of Wouk's classic 1955 coming of age novel, Marjorie Morningstar, adding an additional layer of pleasure for fans such as myself. It's really quite amazing the various themes and commentaries that Mr. Wouk manages to work into this slender novel.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Herman Wouk (HW throughout the book) has written a clever, and amusing story with a strong Jewish American background. I have long been an admirer of his major "factional" works about WWII, the creation of Israel, the 6 Day War and the Yom Kippur War. I read this book on its release because I wanted to see what HW could offer at the age of 97 when so many other authors have reached their "sell by date" many years earlier.

I was surprised by a short and satisfying novel that reeks of modernity in its epistolary format using only letters, tape recordings, e-mails, text messages, fax and even Skype between the main characters (including HW and his wife) to tell the story. The prose adapts to each method of correspondence and is as sharp, and probably more learned and philosophical than his more action-packed stories from earlier days.

This may not be a book for everyone as it is essentially Jewish, and especially American Jewish which, as a Protestant Australian, is far outside my cultural and religious comfort zone. But the writing and the passion for the subject, and especially for the characters kept me mesmerised and fully entertained.

Basically, the initial plot is that HW (in the book) has long dreamed of writing a novel about the life of Moses, the prophet who is at the foundation of all three of the world's the major monotheistic religions and "the most humble man in the world". The project had only got to the stage of a yellowed, almost empty folder at the bottom of a drawer when HW is approached by a leading Jewish filmmaker to write a screenplay about the life of Moses, to be financed by a Jewish billionaire from Australia.
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Format: Hardcover
I have to admit that I expected to just kind of tolerate this book, thinking "it's cute that this old guy is still writing." And it is not anything like his WWII novels, to be sure, but it's a darn good book. What a sharp mind Mr. Wouk still has. And the epistolary approach to tell the story of the making of a film works very well. Having it be "autobiographical" in the sense that Wouk makes himself (and his late wife) characters in the story gives the whole thing a feeling of authenticity. As was true the first time I read one of his books 40 years ago, the glimpse at Jewish life is a fascinating draw for me, and the even more alien world (to me) of Hollywood falderal was fun to watch. Kind of amazing to think that the man who wrote about the radio business in "Aurora Dawn" has now made a book based almost entirely on digital communication methods of the 21st century! I hope he lives to be 120 and finishes that Moses novel.
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Format: Hardcover
"Herman Wouk --- is he still alive?"
-- From an email in response to the author's query about developing a screenplay based on the life of Moses.

At age 97, the renowned and beloved Pulitzer Prize-winning author of THE CAINE MUTINY, MARJORIE MORNINGSTAR, and what many have claimed to be the best World War II novel and television series of the century, THE WINDS OF WAR, pitched the idea to a potential Hollywood producer. No stranger to working with screen and stage adaptations of his bestselling novels, Wouk had been trying to figure out a way to tell the authentic story of Moses, so abysmally treated, in his opinion, by Cecil B. DeMille and various authors over the years.

Wouk felt that no mere novel --- at least one that didn't run 2,000 pages and cause a hernia to hold --- could accurately portray the story of the man who became the father of western religion. The Koran, the Torah and the Old Testament are all based on what Moses created during his remarkable lifetime, and Wouk finally came to the conclusion that only a Steven Spielberg-type treatment, complete with CGI and high definition, could possibly come close to paying the great prophet proper justice.

THE LAWGIVER comes to life in what can be best described as an epistolary novel by an ancient, self-effacing man pursing a life-long dream. It consists of emails, memos, faxes, phone calls, Skype transmissions, texts and margin notes between himself, multi-billionaire potential investors, a scientist developing a futuristic energy source, lawyers, a young award-winning screenwriter, an unknown Australian actor, and central to it all, his adored wife and agent of over 60 years, Betty Sarah Wouk, to whom he refers as BSW.
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