Perhaps no author celebrated the importance of the sense of place in fiction as well as James Michener. From the sandy beaches of the South Pacific to the daunting mountain passes of the Himalayas, Michener acknowledged the influence geography has over history, and strove to infuse portraits of overwhelmingly majestic or harshly desolate landscapes with the sweeping personal sagas of generations of individuals who made such country their own.
Plucked from an orphanage and adopted by Quaker parents in Doylestown, Pennsylvania, Michener was never sure of his exact birth date and knew nothing about his biological parents. This uncertain heritage perhaps was the impetus behind Michener’s signature fictional formula of tracing a culture’s roots back to its earliest known beginnings, as he did in such historical epics as Hawaii (1959); Chesapeake (1978); and Centennial (1974),among others. Although painstakingly researched, these works were often harshly criticized for the encyclopedic minutiae that expanded them to hundreds of pages. Readers, however, embraced Michener’s innovative combination of educational discourse and entertaining narrative, elevating his works repeatedly to the top of the best seller lists. In fact, in the twentieth century, Michener was one of only eight writers who had six or more number-one best sellers in the history of the New York Times Best Sellers list.
Exploring themes such as personal courage, common sense, and the defeat of prejudice, Michener hoped to promote a better understanding of the traits that united humanity, regardless of the circumstance or setting. His viewpoint came from his own extensive world travels, which began when he was an art student in London and Italy, and continued through his service as a World War II naval officer stationed in the South Pacific. Indeed, his wartime service provided the inspiration for his Pulitzer Prize-winning first volume of fiction, Tales of the South Pacific, which was adapted in 1959 by Rodgers and Hammerstein for their Broadway musical, South Pacific.
Though Michener wrote about places as diverse as Alaska (1988) and Mexico (1992), Poland (1983) and the Caribbean (1989), the Far East remained his most deeply mined resource, as shown through novels such as The Bridges of Toko-Ri (1953) and Sayonara (1954), and nonfiction works such as Return to Paradise (1951), The Voice of Asia (1951),and The Floating World (1955),an academic study of Japanese art. [NOTE: These last three titles are not available at St. Charles; please ask a librarian for assistance.]
Michener died in October, 1997, at age 90, in Austin, Texas, where he had served as professor emeritus at the University of Texas. A noted philanthropist, historian, art collector, and social critic, Michener always referred to himself, simply, as a storyteller. In an obituary written for the New York Times, Albin Krebs quoted Michener as having observed, “I’m sure that in the dawn of civilization, I would have gone out with the hunters, then stayed behind a safe tree and at night explained how it happened.”
Find James Michener in our catalog.
Tales of the South Pacific (1947)
The Bridges at Toko-Ri (1953)
Hawaii (1959) **
The Source (1965)
The Drifters (1971)
The Covenant (1980)
Alaska (1988) **
Journey (1989) LP
The Eagle and the Raven (1990)
The Novel (1991) LP
Mexico (1992) LP
Creatures of the Kingdom: Stories of Animals and Nature (1993)
Miracle in Seville (1995)
The Bridge at Andau (1957)
Six Days in Havana (1989)
This Noble Land: My Vision for America (1996)
Japanese Prints: From the Early Masters to the Modern (1959)
Oversize 769.952 MIC
The World Is My Home: A Memoir (1992)
LARGE PRINT B MICHENER
* on order
LP – Large Print
ER – Electronic Resource