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The Caine Mutiny by Herman Wouk
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The Caine Mutiny (1951)

by Herman Wouk

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Showing 1-5 of 29 (next | show all)
I have vague recollections of really enjoying Bogart's portrayal of Lieutenant Commander Phillip Queeg, and so was looking forward to reading the book by Herman Wouk that it was based upon.

But I must admit I was pretty disappointed.

I was left with a distinct feeling that the mythology surrounding the book must account for more than a good part of it's almost universal acclaim. And I am flabbergasted that it won a Pulitzer Prize.

The primary sin of the book is that I very quickly found my suspension of disbelief wallowing in shallow waters. Unlike the film, which portrays a captain who clearly has had some nuts seriously come loose, the book paints a picture with repeated anecdotes and courtroom psychology of a person who is almost farcically out of their depth from the earliest point in their career. Every misstep recounted in the book is another nail in the coffin of the story's credibility.

I ended up totally disbelieving the possibility that Queeg would have ever been given command of a ship, even in wartime. After all, the Peter Principle dictates that we all eventually get promoted to a position at which we are no longer competent. Not six levels above it.

Then we have the dual plot lines involving Ensign Keith: his shipboard experiences and involvement in the "mutiny"; and his personal life journey that involves a woman (of course) and the missive from his dying father to be a man and make the most of his life. That's a good setup, but Wouk leaves the plot lines flapping in the wind. Nothing that Keith learns in his private life seems to affect his ship-board experiences one bit, and vice versa. So what was the point?!!! It's almost as if Woek started with the idea of Keith's wake up call from his father actively guiding his course through the mutiny, but then either forgot or couldn't be bothered to weave it all together, and also couldn't be bothered to rewrite out the redundant plot lines.

I must say I was quite cynical when I arrived at the court-room drama. Here we have supposed hotshot lawyer Lieutenant Barney Greenwald who nevertheless allows the case to get mired in the question of whether the sailors can make a clinically-sound diagnosis in the middle of a typhoon.
That's Grisham 101 people!

And so by the time we reach the moral showdown of the story, I was not unprepared to be disappointed by the wild leap of logic that it is in fact a travesty that Queeg's competence and position should ever have been questioned!! Because of course he was serving in the Navy from before the war and therefore did more than anyone to fight Hitler. And since Hitler did such bad things to so many people, especially Jews, then so Queeg should be given all the respect due as if he had personally stayed Hitler's hand himself. So we are to believe that Queeg gets a permanent pass for all future misdeeds by dint of simple association? I think not!

Was I just in a bad mood, or is this one of the most laziest outings for an author I have read in quite some time? ( )
  pratalife | Feb 9, 2014 |
I have vague recollections of really enjoying Bogart's portrayal of Lieutenant Commander Phillip Queeg, and so was looking forward to reading the book by Herman Wouk that it was based upon.

But I must admit I was pretty disappointed.

I was left with a distinct feeling that the mythology surrounding the book must account for more than a good part of it's almost universal acclaim. And I am flabbergasted that it won a Pulitzer Prize.

The primary sin of the book is that I very quickly found my suspension of disbelief wallowing in shallow waters. Unlike the film, which portrays a captain who clearly has had some nuts seriously come loose, the book paints a picture with repeated anecdotes and courtroom psychology of a person who is almost farcically out of their depth from the earliest point in their career. Every misstep recounted in the book is another nail in the coffin of the story's credibility.

I ended up totally disbelieving the possibility that Queeg would have ever been given command of a ship, even in wartime. After all, the Peter Principle dictates that we all eventually get promoted to a position at which we are no longer competent. Not six levels above it.

Then we have the dual plot lines involving Ensign Keith: his shipboard experiences and involvement in the "mutiny"; and his personal life journey that involves a woman (of course) and the missive from his dying father to be a man and make the most of his life. That's a good setup, but Wouk leaves the plot lines flapping in the wind. Nothing that Keith learns in his private life seems to affect his ship-board experiences one bit, and vice versa. So what was the point?!!! It's almost as if Woek started with the idea of Keith's wake up call from his father actively guiding his course through the mutiny, but then either forgot or couldn't be bothered to weave it all together, and also couldn't be bothered to rewrite out the redundant plot lines.

I must say I was quite cynical when I arrived at the court-room drama. Here we have supposed hotshot lawyer Lieutenant Barney Greenwald who nevertheless allows the case to get mired in the question of whether the sailors can make a clinically-sound diagnosis in the middle of a typhoon.
That's Grisham 101 people!

And so by the time we reach the moral showdown of the story, I was not unprepared to be disappointed by the wild leap of logic that it is in fact a travesty that Queeg's competence and position should ever have been questioned!! Because of course he was serving in the Navy from before the war and therefore did more than anyone to fight Hitler. And since Hitler did such bad things to so many people, especially Jews, then so Queeg should be given all the respect due as if he had personally stayed Hitler's hand himself. So we are to believe that Queeg gets a permanent pass for all future misdeeds by dint of simple association? I think not!

Was I just in a bad mood, or is this one of the most laziest outings for an author I have read in quite some time? ( )
  pratalife | Feb 9, 2014 |
This was intense, and really entertaining. I have quibbles with the love story and am not quite sure how that was supposed to fit in with the story of a rust bucket minesweeper, its crew and the eventual decision to relieve Captain Queeg from duty by his Executive Office.

The story follows Willie Keith from training to eventual posting on the Caine, a minesweeping ship which should have been retired long before World War II began. As an eager young Princeton graduate with a degree in Literature and very gung ho ensign, Keith views the grungy crew and ship with disdain, as he does Captain De Vriess.

Ensign Keith only things he has it bad until Captain Queeg comes on board. Queeg is an emotional bully; paranoid, uneven, illogical and often downright incomprehensible. Things come to a head after months of Queeg's shenanigans, in which has proved himself inept and incapable of managing the Caine and her crew. In the middle of a typhoon, which has caught the ship in its record winds, Queeg's XO Maryk relieves the captain of duty and keeps the ship upright and gets her out of the worst of the storm.

Maryk has kept a log of all the incidents caused by Queeg's irrational behavior, and has been talked into seeing him as crazy by another college graduate and published author, Tom Harding who has read books about psychology. But when the going gets tough, Harding steps back from his conviction that Queeg is/was crazy and should have been relieved of duty. It is Willie Keith who steps up and backs Maryk's decision to mutiny against their captain.

I think this book holds up well and many of the characters and situations are believable. As I said at the beginning, I mostly had trouble figuring out how the love story was supposed to fit into all this. ( )
  AuntieClio | Jan 6, 2014 |
Ensign Willie Keith's stint in the Navy began on a bad note: he missed boarding his assigned ship, the U.S.S. Caine, in Pearl Harbor before it left for Australia. He worked in rotation as a member of the officers' pool until the Caine returned a few months later to claim their long lost crewman. It took some time for Keith to settle into his new routine, but he found the crew affable and Captain De Vriess a hard but fair man.

Just as Keith was getting accustomed to the Captain's ways, the Navy assigned a new captain to the Caine -- Lieutenant Commander Philip F. Queeg. Almost immediately, Queeg wormed his way onto the crews' bad side by strictly enforcing Navy regulations, doling out harsh punishments for the smallest of violations, and finding ways to blame others for his mistakes. Or so it seemed to Lieutenant Tom Keefer, who insinuated the idea that Queeg wasn't quite right in the head based upon Section 184. Keith brushed it off, but Lieutenant Steve Maryk paid closer attention to Queeg, keeping a detailed journal of events and how Queeg handled both them and himself. At a rendez-vous with Admiral Halsey's flagship, Maryk was ready to present his information, but Keefer convinced him not to. Later, during a terrific storm at sea, Maryk decided that Queeg's handling of the ship put the crew at risk and relieved him of duty, and all the while Queeg protested against the mutiny of his crew.

"The Caine Mutiny" blends different genres into a single compelling tale. At first, we have the Willie Keith's story aboard the U.S.S. Caine -- a new soldier learning the good and bad about war, both at see and with his personal life. On the other hand, we have a subtle psychological game, following Queeg's actions with a measured eye to catch any instances of him slipping over the edge. And finally, we witness a nail-biting courtroom drama during Maryk's court-martial, with hardcore cross-examinations that left me wide-eyed in amazement. Throw in some great action sequences that had me breathlessly turning the page and well-written characters that feel like real people instead of fictional characters, and Herman Wouk's novel truly is an intense and amazing book to read. ( )
  ocgreg34 | Dec 30, 2013 |
I reread this classic novel for our reading club. I had first read it many years ago in high school while reading through the complete and unabridged (some twelve or fourteen volumes -- I can't remember exactly) [book:History of US Naval Operations in World War II] by Samual Eliot Morison -- a spectacular read I would recommend to anyone. If you have only seen the movie, you must read the book, if for no other reason than to restore Wouk's reputation in your mind. My perspective reading it as an older adult — I still hesitate to use that word— was also very different from my recollection of the first reading when I just enjoyed it immensely as a roaringly good nautical story. What happens (for those who have never had the pleasure of reading this gripping story) is not just the story of a junior officer relieving his captain -- indeed, Maryk, the exec who relives Captain Queeg during the typhoon is never even charged during the court martial with mutiny, a capital crime, but rather with the equally serious and severely punishable conduct to the detriment of good order and discipline. During a severe typhoon the Caine finds itself in serious danger of foundering as Queeg, attempting the following the orders of the fleet commander tries to continue on a southerly course rather than into the wind. He seems paralyzed with fear and unable to react to the suggestion of Maryk, a reserve officer, but who has substantial sea experience in fishing vessels. The events are seen primarily through the eyes of Willie Keith, a spoiled, rich kid from New York, infatuated with a nightclub singer, who gradually comes of age during the war, finally ending it as the last captain of the Caine. The most interesting character is Greenlaw, the Jewish lawyer and injured fighter pilot, who is drafted into defending Maryk. Through several rather brilliant legal interrogations and manuevers, he gets Maryk acquitted, but he knows it's just a matter of time before the review board overturns the verdict, because even he recognizes that Maryk's actions were wrong and that Queeg was, in many ways, a tragically flawed but heroic figure. The villain is the intellectual novelist Lieutenant Keefer who eggs on Maryk to look for signs of insanity in Queeg's actions, but who later, when in command himself, earns a couple of steel balls placed on his pillow by his then exec Willie Keith and who fails to support Maryk during the court martial. The trial, I think, has some of the best legal writing anywhere, capturing the intense drama in a few short pages. ( )
  ecw0647 | Sep 30, 2013 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Herman Woukprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Pariseau, KevinNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Dedication
This tale is for my wife,
with all my love.
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He was of medium height, somewhat chubby, and good looking, with curly red hair and an innocent, gay face, more remarkable for a humorous air about the eyes and large mouth than for any strength of chin or nobility of nose.
Quotations
The world became narrowed to a wobbling iron shell on a waste of foamy gray, and the business of the world was staring out at empty water or making red-ink insertions in the devil's own endless library of mildewed unintelligible volumes.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Please do not combine "The Caine Mutiny" (a novel) with "The Caine mutiny court-martial: A drama in two acts".
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0316955108, Paperback)

The Novel that Inspired the Now-Classic Film The Caine Mutiny and the Hit Broadway Play The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial Herman Wouk's boldly dramatic, brilliantly entertaining novel of life-and mutiny-on a Navy warship in the Pacific theater was immediately embraced, upon its original publication in 1951, as one of the first serious works of American fiction to grapple with the moral complexities and the human consequences of World War II. In the intervening half century, The Caine Mutiny has become a perennial favorite of readers young and old, has sold millions of copies throughout the world, and has achieved the status of a modern classic.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:45:32 -0400)

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The story of a modern-day mutiny aboard a U.S. naval vessel.

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