Sunday, May 30, 2010

A Faithful Flirt?

Some time ago when I was at one of our many Dollar Stores here in town, I spotted a couple books, each for a dollar, and because I knew the authors I thought, "I'll give it a shot."

One of them was Herman Wouk. I knew him as an accomplished author, having penned The Winds of War (which I read) and also a history of the Jews (which I had recommended to me). The dollar book, a novel, is A Hole in Texas.

I understand why it was in the Dollar Store. This was written by the celebrated Herman Wouk? The pacing for the first several chapters was slow, part of it because I was looking for the conflict. Where was the conflict that made this story a story?

It finally came, but man! This book seemed the work of an amateur in some ways. The characters were not quite flat but far from compelling.

And yet at some point in the book I had a hard time putting it down. The last half was read in a couple days' time. Did the story get better? Not really. But the main character faced an interesting conundrum that perplexed me.

Guy Carpenter, American physicist, seems to be a happily married man. Yet he's been corresponding with a first love, a Chinese woman who returned to China many years back. And he gets entangled with a congresswoman who needs his expertise and later helps him with some legal/political trouble.

What I'm mystified about is that Guy is pictured as happily married but still sort of pursues an old flame, and, at the same time receives a kiss from the Congresswoman and later flirts with her. Mild-mannered physicist he may be, but his heart is off, though I'm not sure but that Wouk is portraying him as normal. After all, who wouldn't be technically faithful to his wife and yet cultivate some sideline distractions? And in the end, the guy, Guy, is vindicated!

Certainly not a biblical definition of marital faithfulness.

First line: We all have bad days, and Dr. Guy Carpenter awoke to rain drumming on gray windows, with a qualm in his gut about what this drab day might bring.

Last line: She wrapped her arms powerfully around him, and the Deep Throat Physicist was home.

My ranking (on a 5-point scale): 1 1/2

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