1907-1997

An author known for writing extremely long books about a great number of things. These books tended to lack a cohesive plot, but were rather a collection of really long short stories in chronological order that revolved around some kind of central theme, such as a place or religion. Generally, they were incredibly historically accurate despite being for the most part fictional. Among his better known works are The Source, Texas, and South Pacific.
James Albert Michener, who would live to be known for his incredibly prolific and terrific writing career, was born in 1907, adopted by widow Mabel Michener in Doylestown, Pennsylvania. They were a poor family and Michener was often ridiculed at school for his torn, unpressed clothing. In high school, Michener was editor of his school newspaper, enjoyed playing basketball, and was class president. He attended Swarthmore College from 1925 to 1929, graduating with a B.A. in English and History, Summa Cum Laude. He worked as a teacher for a while, and spent much of his spare time traveling. He recieved a fellowship in 1931 and studied in Scotland. He also served as a British Merchant Marine.

In 1935 he married Patti Koon. He became Associate Professor at Colorado State College of Education in 1936, and received a master’s degree in 1937. In 1943 Michener was sent to the South Pacific by the Naval Reserve and by the following year he was the South Pacific Naval Historian. In 1947 his first book was published, “Tales of the South Pacific,” which he received a Pulitzer for in 1948. That same year he and his wife divorced and he married Vange Nord.

During the next few years several more of his books were published, including “Return to Paradise” and “The Bridges at Toko-ri.” He became president of the Asia Institute in 1953 and in 1955 he divorced his second wife, and married Mari Yoriko Sabusawa. In 1957 Michener was appointed to the Federal Advisory Arts Commission. He wrote actively during this time, publishing “The Bridge at Andau,” “Caravans,” “Hawaii” and “The Source,” among other novels. During the late sixties and 70s, Michener participated in numerous humantarian causes. He aided Hungarian refugees, joined Americans for Permanent Peace in the Middle East, and donated tons of money to several different arts programs. In 1972 he worked as a Correspondent to China and Russia with President Richard Nixon.

In 1977 a series of television programs ran about the writer called “The World of James A. Michener.” At this point he had also published the acclaimed “Centennial,” and “Sports in America.” During the 1980’s, along with winning copius awards and medals, his saga-sweeping novels “Texas,” “Alaska” and “Caribbean” were published. In 1996 he was named Oustanding Philanthropist by the national Society of Fund Raising Executives. In 1997, Michener passed away in his Texas residence.

Virtually all of Michener’s novels are known for their extraordinary length- averaging around 1,000 pages per work. If you’ve yet to read at least one of his novels, many of them begin with the creation of the Earth, and expound upon the evolution of the area he is writing about for the first several hundred pages. One theory a teacher once told me was that Michener began his novels this way to get rid of impatient readers. Don’t know about that one.

Other works by James Michener include:

Carribean
Poland
Cheasepeake
Mexico
Legacy
Iberia
The Drifters
Sayonara
Space
The Eagle and the Raven
Recessional

Help for this node came from jamesmichener.com

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