New Newt Gingrich novel concerns Pearl Harbor

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December 8, 1941, is not normally known as a day that will live in infamy. That phrase of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s usually refers to the preceding day, on which the American Naval fleet at Pearl Harbor was savaged by a surprise Japanese air raid. But “Pearl Harbor,” the war novel that is Newt Gingrich and William R. Forstchen’s latest foray into what they call “active history,” deliberately calls attention to the fact that Japan and Hawaii were on different sides of the International Date Line.

When the attack began, it was Dec. 7 at Pearl Harbor but Dec. 8 in Japan. The book is subtly subtitled “A Novel of December 8th” to signal its attention to the Japanese point of view. On the basis of that detail, you might expect a high level of fastidiousness from “Pearl Harbor.”

And you would be spectacularly wrong. Because you would find phrases like “to withdraw backward was impossible,” sounds like “wretching noises” to accompany vomiting, or constructions like “incredulous as it seemed, America had not reacted.” Although the book has two authors, it could have used a third assigned to cleanup patrol.

This is not a matter of isolated typographical errors. It is a serious case for the comma police, since the book’s war on punctuation is almost as heated as the air assaults it describes. “One would have to be dead, very stupid Fuchida thought,” the book says about the fighter pilot Mitsuo Fuchida, “not to realize they were sallying forth to war.” Evidence notwithstanding, the authors do not mean to insult the fighter pilot’s intelligence — or, presumably, the reader’s....

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