The Language God Talks: On Science and Religion by Herman Wouk (Little, Brown and Company, $23.99, 192 pages; Hachette Audio, $26.98, 5 CDs)
“It doesn’t seem to me that this fantastically marvelous universe, this tremendous range of time and space and different kinds of animals, all the different planets, and all these atoms with their motions, and so on, all this complicated thing can merely be a stage so that God can watch human beings struggle for good and evil – which is the view that religion has. The stage is too big for the drama.” Richard Feynman
Having a scant knowledge of Herman Wouk (the movie version of “Youngblood Hawke”) and having a great appreciation of Richard Feynman (the book Feynman’s Rainbow by Leonard Mlodinow) put this reviewer in a one-down situation for listening to the audio book, The Language God Talks. Moreover, the author’s age of 94 at the time of the book’s completion puts him in my late father’s generation.
The book is brief, a five-CD set. Bob Walter, the narrator, provides a worldly and mellow voice that one can easily believe to be reminiscent of the author’s. The smooth wording lends itself well to an audio book. Sometimes, the somewhat self-indulgent musings of the author drift along pulling the listener into a past that is only partially shared. Yes, the space age is fascinating and was most riveting at the time of the biggest breakthroughs. However, those glory days are nearly gone as are the days enjoyed by Mr. Wouk.
In fairness to the author, his works will, no doubt, keep their places on required reading lists for some decades to come. The quality of his writing puts him far ahead of many of his generation. His Hebrew scholarship is quite notable and admirable. Perhaps the comfort he has found in his studies is well matched with the acquaintances he shared with the luminaries of science and philosophy like Richard Feynman. Wouk’s exploration of science versus religion is a personal one – and not a new one – but his efforts in that regard are exhaustive and lengthy by his own statements.
For this reviewer, the book felt like an honest retrospective of an enormously intelligent man reaching the end of his life’s path. The book also seems to fulfill a personal promise of exploration that he has kept to himself. Being honest about why we believe what we believe is something that few in middle age or younger actually ponder. Perhaps it is left to the last part of life due to the enormity of the subject. It would be a good listen for persons of any age, as exploring the meaning of life is a most worthwhile pursuit.
A review copy of the audiobook was provided by the publisher. Feynman’s Rainbow: A Search for Beauty in Physics and Life by Leonard Mlodinow is available as a trade paperback book (Vintage, $14.95, 192 pages) and as a Kindle Edition and Nook Book download. Also recommended is The Drunkard’s Walk: How Randomness Rules Our Lives by Mlodinow (Vintage, $15.00, 272 pages).