BY ROB LESTER**** A famous fellow named Herman has a birthday this week and he turns 102! It’s not Pee Wee Herman. Not Herman Hupfeld (he wrote “As Time Goes By”). It’s not Jerry Herman whose musical Hello, Dolly! Is back on Broadway. Not Pee Wee Herman. Usually when we make someone the NiteLife Person of the Week because of a birthday, it’s someone from the world of music. But how can we ignore a celebrated writer whose most recent (he says “final”) work was published when he was 100 years old? Not Herman of Herman’s Hermits. It’s not Herman Mankiewicz who was a drama critic and screenwriter, collaborating with Orson Welles on Citizen Cain, and not recent Republican Presidential hopeful Herman Cain, either, but rather The Caine Mutiny’s novelist, Herman Wouk. He won the Pulitzer Prize for that one. His earlier books include the The Winds of War, War and Remembrance, Marjorie Morningstar, Youngblood Hawke, The Hope and The Glory. His works have been adapted as plays, films, and TV movies, and in the case of Don’t Stop the Carnival, a musical with songs by Jimmy Buffett.
Here are 10 other interesting facts about Herman Wouk
- His father was not a novelist; he was an immigrant whose business was running a laundry.
- He grew up in the Bronx
- He went to college at Columbia, where he wrote the school variety shows (of course) and was editor of the humor magazine and graduated at age 19.
- Then he wrote for radio—five years for star comedian Fred Allen.
- He joined the Navy after the attack on Pearl Harbor and met a personnel supervisor named Betty Sarah Brown. They married the next year and the marriage lasted until her death 6 years ago, after their 66th anniversary.
- His wife was his editor and literary agent.
- He wrote his first novel aboard ship in World War II, the war becoming a subject for some of his most celebrated works.
- He kept journals for decades. The Library of Congress wanted them. He complied, turning them over —- there were more than 100 volumes!
- In 1980, he won the medal named for a guy currently the subject of a Broadway musical: The Alexander Hamilton Award.
- He was once a guest panelist on TV’s What’s My Line?.
And here are some memorable quotes from the man:
“Peace, if it ever exists, will not be based on the fear of war, but on the love of peace. It will not be the abstaining from an act, but the coming of a state of mind.”
“Remember this, if you can–there is nothing, nothing more precious than time. You probably feel you have a measureless supply of it, but you haven’t. Wasted hours destroy your life just as surely at the beginning as at the end–only in the end it becomes more obvious.”
“I try to write a certain amount each day, five days a week. A rule sometimes broken is better than no rule.”
“I don’t understand how America works, any more than Frances Trollope or Dickens did, but it’s an ongoing miracle of sorts.”
“The Navy is a master plan designed by geniuses for execution by idiots. If you are not an idiot, but find yourself in the Navy, you can only operate well by pretending to be one. All the shortcuts and economies and common-sense changes that your native intelligence suggests to you are mistakes. Learn to quash them. Constantly ask yourself, “How would I do this if I were a fool?” Throttle down your mind to a crawl. Then you will never go wrong.”
“No adult is without problems except a happy imbecile.”
“Remember this, if you can—there is nothing, nothing more precious than time. You probably feel you have a measureless supply of it, but you haven’t. Wasted hours destroy your life just as surely at the beginning as at the end—only at the end it becomes more obvious. Use your time while you have it, Willie, in making something of yourself.”