The nonagenarian novelist takes a curious, epistolary path toward the epic about Moses that has long defeated him.
In his 2000 memoir, The Will to Live On, novelist Wouk (A Hole in Texas, 2004, etc.) wrote of his decades-long struggle to write The Lawgiver, which he intended to be a doorstopper about the life of Moses. This Lawgiver is a slighter, more madcap and more meta affair, focused on an effort to produce a film version of the story that would out-DeMille DeMille. Wouk has written himself into the plot: As the story opens, he’s approached by a high-powered film producer to consult on a script by an untested young director, Margolit. The flurry of memos, emails, Skype-session transcripts, news clippings, etc., that make up the novel roughly cohere into a comedy of errors. The chief financier is determined to marshal algae as an alternative energy source, Margolit’s favorite candidate for the role of Moses is a modest Australian actor stuck with a pernicious agent, her old shul-mates are coming out of the woodwork, and an old flame is pursuing her yet again. Wouk doesn’t pretend to make this anything more than a lighthearted romp—cameos abound of Wouk’s wife cautioning him not to take this Lawgiver business too seriously. Still, Wouk expends little energy connecting the dots among the algae-fuel business, the romantic subplot, Margolit’s estranged father and the theology of the Moses back story, which Wouk clearly takes seriously but touches upon only lightly. At 97, Wouk still has plenty of enthusiasm for assembling the broad cast of characters that marked widescreen works like The Winds of War. The difference here is how it results in a weak, shtick-y assemblage of riffs on a fickle God and stereotypical film impresarios.
A breezy romp about movies and religion that gives both short shrift.