Herman Wouk (wohk) is one of the few twentieth century American novelists who creates fiction that is both enjoyable entertainment and serious literature. He was born to Abraham Isaac and Esther Levine Wouk, both Russian Jewish immigrants. His father started his life in the United States as a poor laborer and gradually built a successful chain of laundries. Wouk has incorporated many specific experiences of his youth, such as living in a family constantly beset by business worries, into several of his novels. His grandfather, an Orthodox rabbi, instilled in him a lifelong devotion to Judaism. After attending Townsend Harris Hall in the Bronx from 1927 to 1930, Wouk at the age of nineteen graduated with honors from Columbia University, where he majored in comparative literature and philosophy. While in college he was editor of the college humor magazine, Columbia Jester, and wrote two of the popular annual variety shows. The philosopher Irwin Edman was Wouk’s mentor at Columbia; his conservative humanist outlook was a major influence on Wouk’s thinking.
In 1935 Wouk took his first professional position, as a radio comedy writer. In 1941 he began writing scripts to promote the sale of United States war bonds, but his radio career ended when he enlisted in the U.S. Navy in 1942. In 1943, while serving as deck officer aboard a destroyer/minesweeper, Wouk began writing his first novel, Aurora Dawn, which he completed in May, 1946. Earlier, in December, 1945, he was married to Betty Sarah Brown, who converted to Judaism. The Wouks had three children, Abraham Isaac (who died in 1951 at the age of five), Nathaniel, and Joseph.
Aurora Dawn is a satirical look at the business of radio and advertising, written in the stylized manner of eighteenth century novels such as Henry Fielding’s Tom Jones (1749). It was chosen as a Book-of-the-Month Club selection, but Wouk was more widely acknowledged after the appearance of his...
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