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The World Is My Home: A Memoir

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Literary legend James A. Michener was “a Renaissance man, adventurous, inquisitive, unpretentious and unassuming, with an encyclopedic mind and a generous heart” (The New York Times Book Review). In this exceptional memoir, the man himself tells the story of his remarkable life and describes the people, events, and ideas that shaped it. Moving backward and forward across t Literary legend James A. Michener was “a Renaissance man, adventurous, inquisitive, unpretentious and unassuming, with an encyclopedic mind and a generous heart” (The New York Times Book Review). In this exceptional memoir, the man himself tells the story of his remarkable life and describes the people, events, and ideas that shaped it. Moving backward and forward across time, he writes about the many strands of his experience: his passion for travel; his lifelong infatuation with literature, music, and painting; his adventures in politics; and the hard work, headaches, and rewards of the writing life. Here at last is the real James Michener: plainspoken, wise, and enormously sympathetic, a man who could truly say, “The world is my home.”   Praise for The World Is My Home   “Michener’s own life makes one of his most engaging tales—a classic American success story.”—Entertainment Weekly   “The Michener saga is as full of twists as any of his monumental works. . . . His output, his political interests, his patriotic service, his diligence, and the breadth of his readership are matched only by the great nineteenth-century writers whose works he devoured as he grew up—Dickens, Balzac, Mark Twain.”—Chicago Tribune   “There are splendid yarns about [Michener’s] wartime doings in the South Pacific. There are hilarious cautionary tales about his service on government commissions. There are wonderful inside stories from the publishing business. And always there is Michener himself—analyzing his own character, assessing himself as a writer, chronicling his intellectual life, giving advice to young writers.”—The Plain Dealer   “A sweepingly interesting life . . . Whether he’s having an epiphany over a campout in New Guinea with head-hunting cannibals or getting politically charged by the melodrama of great opera, James A. Michener’s world is a place and a time worth reading about.”—The Christian Science Monitor


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Literary legend James A. Michener was “a Renaissance man, adventurous, inquisitive, unpretentious and unassuming, with an encyclopedic mind and a generous heart” (The New York Times Book Review). In this exceptional memoir, the man himself tells the story of his remarkable life and describes the people, events, and ideas that shaped it. Moving backward and forward across t Literary legend James A. Michener was “a Renaissance man, adventurous, inquisitive, unpretentious and unassuming, with an encyclopedic mind and a generous heart” (The New York Times Book Review). In this exceptional memoir, the man himself tells the story of his remarkable life and describes the people, events, and ideas that shaped it. Moving backward and forward across time, he writes about the many strands of his experience: his passion for travel; his lifelong infatuation with literature, music, and painting; his adventures in politics; and the hard work, headaches, and rewards of the writing life. Here at last is the real James Michener: plainspoken, wise, and enormously sympathetic, a man who could truly say, “The world is my home.”   Praise for The World Is My Home   “Michener’s own life makes one of his most engaging tales—a classic American success story.”—Entertainment Weekly   “The Michener saga is as full of twists as any of his monumental works. . . . His output, his political interests, his patriotic service, his diligence, and the breadth of his readership are matched only by the great nineteenth-century writers whose works he devoured as he grew up—Dickens, Balzac, Mark Twain.”—Chicago Tribune   “There are splendid yarns about [Michener’s] wartime doings in the South Pacific. There are hilarious cautionary tales about his service on government commissions. There are wonderful inside stories from the publishing business. And always there is Michener himself—analyzing his own character, assessing himself as a writer, chronicling his intellectual life, giving advice to young writers.”—The Plain Dealer   “A sweepingly interesting life . . . Whether he’s having an epiphany over a campout in New Guinea with head-hunting cannibals or getting politically charged by the melodrama of great opera, James A. Michener’s world is a place and a time worth reading about.”—The Christian Science Monitor

30 review for The World Is My Home: A Memoir

  1. 5 out of 5

    Quirkyreader

    This is a memoir that should be read by everyone who reads and writes. Michener describes his life and his influences on his writing. Michener describes his world travels and the ideas he drew from them. I found his time in the South Seas to be most fascinating. Albeit that was the area he focused on the most, he also touched upon many of the other places he traveled to for his writing research. One of the best things about this memoir was some of the books he read. It lead me to some new stories This is a memoir that should be read by everyone who reads and writes. Michener describes his life and his influences on his writing. Michener describes his world travels and the ideas he drew from them. I found his time in the South Seas to be most fascinating. Albeit that was the area he focused on the most, he also touched upon many of the other places he traveled to for his writing research. One of the best things about this memoir was some of the books he read. It lead me to some new stories that I plan on seeking out. This 1000+ page opus was very enjoyable and time well spent.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Cindi

    I'm on page 199 and so far I have to ask this question: REALLY? Can this author really have accomplished so much in his life? I feel like a couch potato compared to him and I don't even watch t.v.!! Finished! A bit of a Renaissance Man, James Michener was an aficionado of opera and classical music, as well as art, collecting enough prints to form a small art museum. In his youth, he read classical literature from many lands. He was, of course, a writer of non-fiction as well as fiction. And a trav I'm on page 199 and so far I have to ask this question: REALLY? Can this author really have accomplished so much in his life? I feel like a couch potato compared to him and I don't even watch t.v.!! Finished! A bit of a Renaissance Man, James Michener was an aficionado of opera and classical music, as well as art, collecting enough prints to form a small art museum. In his youth, he read classical literature from many lands. He was, of course, a writer of non-fiction as well as fiction. And a traveler. In writing about other lands, it was requisite to him that he live in those places. He held various positions on committees in the government, working with the postage stamp committee, working for NASA and various semi-secret missions. That's not all. He kept up with a keen interest in bull fighting and played on a competitive volleyball team. The list of his interests and work that come out in the text of this book goes on and on; I was amazed more than once at the places he went, the people he knew, the awards he received, the speeches he gave, the jobs he held, the volunteer work he did, the money he donated. I liked that Michener made choices about the kind of writing he would do and then stuck to it. He wasn't driven by money, although he was accused of it. Having grown up very poor, he made some decisions early on which killed his competitive nature in regards to money. He liked to help people and he did so regularly with money or favors. He also donated large sums to help up and coming writers in many countries. His plans for after his death was that all of his money would be donated to the arts and for scholarships etc. I have to admit, that like most memoirs, there are a lot of names to keep straight and that can make the reading a little tedious in places. This was an interesting read in the context of Outliers which I read this summer. I made a careful watch of how intelligence, opportunity, and hard work played out in Michener's life. Michener did a good job in this autobiography of selling several other of his books to me. I'd like to read a few, maybe more!

  3. 5 out of 5

    Rex Fuller

    With undiminished affection for Michener and his work, I admit I only skimmed the last parts of this one–the constant digressions got to me a bit. But at some point it will worm its way back for true completion. Let’s remember, Michener originally had no birth certificate. No one could tell him when, where, or to whom he was born. As they say, not an auspicious start. He grew up with a number of other abandoned babies in the home of Mabel Michener, whose husband died young, and the broader, real With undiminished affection for Michener and his work, I admit I only skimmed the last parts of this one–the constant digressions got to me a bit. But at some point it will worm its way back for true completion. Let’s remember, Michener originally had no birth certificate. No one could tell him when, where, or to whom he was born. As they say, not an auspicious start. He grew up with a number of other abandoned babies in the home of Mabel Michener, whose husband died young, and the broader, real Michener family, never shied from reminding him he was not one of them. Now, recall that he lived or spent substantial time in over a hundred countries, including Afghanistan, Indonesia (Java), and Singapore. He particularly loved islands, dozens of them, including Barra in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland and Bora Bora, his favorite, in the New Hebrides of the Pacific. He thought he was the only man to have spent a Christmas on Easter Island and Easter on Christmas Island. He really did make the world his home. And you can say it did not even stop there. He was one of the first champions at NASA of sending a civilian into space, and never quite got over the Challenger disaster that killed the first to be sent up. Although he did not publish anything until he was 41 (Tales of the South Pacific, which won the Pulitzer for fiction in 1948), before he died he published over forty major works of both fiction and non-fiction, probably capturing forever the title of most prolific producer of long sagas. And still, writing was not one of his greatest passions, which were travel, literature, music, and painting. Just one of many possible anecdotes shows, perhaps most important of all, he was an honorable man. As a Quaker he was exempt from military service but volunteered anyway. Three things especially stand out. First, he goes to some length to prove he was just plain lucky, citing his having survived three plane crashes (one of which involved fatalities), and that if Tales of the South Pacific had been published a year earlier or later it could not have won (against All The King’s Men in 1947 and Guard of Honor in 1949). Second, success was not unmixed. A few examples: Hungary, Spain, and South Africa banned his books, Afghanistan and Israel threatened him not to return, and Israel, Hawaii, and Texas denigrated the books about them. Third, he did not allow his unabashedly liberal politics to either bias his writing or to keep him from friendship with conservatives. How he came to be a writer is here in a beguiling way. He treats you with what he saw in the Pacific in the form of stories of his wartime experience and warmly tells why they were so important to him. At some point, you realize that, of course, this is the real thing behind Tales of the South Pacific. He later explains why he chose to be a writer (he avoids “author” as pretentious). Over-simplified, he did because it was the way in which he could make a difference. And he gives his thought process for choosing what he would write. He chose things big enough to show that all of humanity are brothers. Of Michener, “you couldn’t make this up, no one would believe it” is really true.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Shane

    This was the best “short book” of Michener’s that I have read, an invaluable tour through the world of a writer of the last century who made a lot of money at it. Even though this memoir reads like a literary version of Sinatra’s song, “My Way,” this author accomplished and witnessed a lot during his long and colourful life without having to resort to the tabloids for fame. An orphan, raised by a single foster mother and brought up a Quaker, Michener had a stoic discipline that helped him overcom This was the best “short book” of Michener’s that I have read, an invaluable tour through the world of a writer of the last century who made a lot of money at it. Even though this memoir reads like a literary version of Sinatra’s song, “My Way,” this author accomplished and witnessed a lot during his long and colourful life without having to resort to the tabloids for fame. An orphan, raised by a single foster mother and brought up a Quaker, Michener had a stoic discipline that helped him overcome life’s challenges. He measured himself only against the stronger personalities he met on his travels, never being content with his last success, or being let down by his last failure. His travels during the WWII through safe battle zones like the South Pacific gave him a mother lode of stories about this rather uncontrolled part of the world and its chains of islands that seem to fall off Mercator’s map. A chance intervention by some powerful personalities who liked his recounting of the South Pacific, saw him win a Pulitzer Prize for his first novel. This resulted in movie and stage rights for “South Pacific” that kept him in royalties, enabling him to embark on a full time writing career. He had ample preparation, having been an academic and an editor at McMillan, before the journey began. He also stumbled on a unique formula that found favour with audiences anxious to learn about the world, albeit in more palatable terms than what came out of dry history books. Hence the Michener doorstopper books on places like Hawaii, South Africa, Poland et al, each taking approximately three years to write, where Michener immersed himself in the locale, in its history dating back to creation, and brought it alive with fictional (and sometimes, non-fictional) characters and stories. He was often criticized for subverting history to suit his plots, but he did not read reviews of his books. Success begat success, leading to a string of best-sellers, and soon he was giving his money away to worthy causes, because he says that he never was any good at managing money. He was a political animal, born into a Republican community but drifting over to the Democratic cause over time. He ran for Congress unsuccessfully and thereafter served on many political committees at the Federal and State level, and even accompanied President Nixon to China. Throughout the chapters—arranged by subject and not by date, and therefore causing some repetition in places—we see Michener’s philosophy emerge: • He didn’t believe in “trickle-down economics” and preferred to pay taxes. • He wasn’t a fan of the National Guard. He believed that rich and poor alike should be conscripted. • He was a strong supporter of middle class values. • He disagreed with the unfair distribution of wealth in favour of the 1% of popular writers (of which he was one), but justified it only if these staggering earnings were plowed back into the promotion of literature in general (which he did). • He believed that an orphan of colour would not have had the same chances he had, because he was cocooned and supported by a loving foster mother, a connected extended family, and mentors in school and college who encouraged his development. Orphans of colour often do not have these support networks, he observes. He alludes to the fact that he did not have a literary style (pointed out by many of his critics) and that he was merely a story teller, that his characters were cardboard cut-outs, and that he had little skill or intent in understanding their psychology. He was a loner in the literary establishment. The section I found most revealing was his dissection of the publishing process of the last century from the inside, as an editor and a best-selling author. He provides statistics and economics that help us understand the business model of traditional twentieth century publishing which has now changed dramatically with technology. I marvelled at the team assembled around him to produce each of his books: secretary, expert reader, editor(s), lawyers, and proof-reader—and he still found errors in his work. Today those roles are all rolled into one: the author—and well, there are always those odd errors still around. And yes, I guess he has earned the right to sing the song “My Way” for there were times when he “bit off more than he could chew’: surviving three plane crashes, a heart attack, gout, and the transplanting of various body parts, and having his books initially banned in the countries he had written about. Despite his moralistic style of declaiming how he had “done it,” I found this book to be revelatory of a time gone by in publishing.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Heidi'sbooks

    My apologies to my friend who kept putting this forward as a book club selection. I voted against it two years in a row. My fellow bookclubbers picked it by majority rule. I'm so glad they did! This is an incredible memoir. Some of the stories are so fantastical that it is hard to believe that one person could have accomplished everything in this book. The book starts with tales of him in World War II on a ship headed for the South Pacific. They had to mutiny against the captain to get food and w My apologies to my friend who kept putting this forward as a book club selection. I voted against it two years in a row. My fellow bookclubbers picked it by majority rule. I'm so glad they did! This is an incredible memoir. Some of the stories are so fantastical that it is hard to believe that one person could have accomplished everything in this book. The book starts with tales of him in World War II on a ship headed for the South Pacific. They had to mutiny against the captain to get food and water for the sailors. His stories of Island hopping and the work he did for the navy after the war are fascinating in themselves. He didn't start freelance writing until he was 40 years old. He wrote for hours everyday. His pattern was to move to a location and pick 5 threads of research about that geographical area and use that research for his novels. He did all this while having excruciating pain in his hip and 2 heart attacks, and suffering from gout. His background as an orphan was extraordinary. He didn't know who his parents were and he had no birth certificate at all. A woman took him in at the age of 2 and raised him with a pack of other foster kids and orphans. In his boyhood he hitchhiked across the USA and explored various regions with almost no money. He writes about the publishing world and his time at Macmillan Publishing and his dealings with Random House. He shares his grueling process for writing and research. He shares his love of opera, how he memorized hundreds of poems, his love of English and History, and his love of art (particularly Japanese prints). He ended up with a substantial collection that he donated to a museum. There is so much in this book that a review doesn't do it justice. He was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom. He served on the board for NASA, he served on the committee that chose who went on the postage stamp. And the list goes on and on.... Now what Michener book am I going to read next? I'm hoping to delve into his fiction, maybe one of his epic tomes. Hawaii? Chesapeake? The Source? Which one is your favorite?

  6. 4 out of 5

    Steph (loves water)

    Outstanding. This man was amazing. Every section he wrote about, I related, in some way. He had me rediscovering Beethoven and looking up artists I've never heard of. I loved his stories of the South Pacific (real and fiction), and his views on politics, philosophy, and education. Highly recommended. Outstanding. This man was amazing. Every section he wrote about, I related, in some way. He had me rediscovering Beethoven and looking up artists I've never heard of. I loved his stories of the South Pacific (real and fiction), and his views on politics, philosophy, and education. Highly recommended.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Barbara King

    This memoir is a must read for Michener fans. And even if you are not yet a fan, it is very worthwhile. Michener traveled the world and lived where may of his books are set. He was not only a writer but a humanitarian. He ran for congress unsuccessfully but that led to opportunities for government service. He was part of President Nixon’s entourage on his historic trip to China. In 1956, he happened to be in Vienna when Hungarians were escaping their country following their failed revolution. He This memoir is a must read for Michener fans. And even if you are not yet a fan, it is very worthwhile. Michener traveled the world and lived where may of his books are set. He was not only a writer but a humanitarian. He ran for congress unsuccessfully but that led to opportunities for government service. He was part of President Nixon’s entourage on his historic trip to China. In 1956, he happened to be in Vienna when Hungarians were escaping their country following their failed revolution. He actually was at the Bridge at Andau when many of them crossed over and wrote a book by that name after interviewing many refugees firsthand. Michener had an incredible life. He started out an orphan but through education, perseverance and a lot of luck he became on of the best novelists of our time as well as one of the outstanding citizens of the world.

  8. 5 out of 5

    David

    11/5/20: Will read concurrently w/ Michener's Poland. Gave up on Poland. Moving this behind the wall for now. 1/26/21: Have recently read The Bridges At Toko-Ri and now am reading Tales of the South Pacific, so will go back to this. 2/7/21: The first sentence of the book says, "This will be a strange kind of autobiography because I shall offer the first seven chapters as if I had never written a book, the last seven as if that were all I had done." But the book clearly is a memoir, not an autobiogr 11/5/20: Will read concurrently w/ Michener's Poland. Gave up on Poland. Moving this behind the wall for now. 1/26/21: Have recently read The Bridges At Toko-Ri and now am reading Tales of the South Pacific, so will go back to this. 2/7/21: The first sentence of the book says, "This will be a strange kind of autobiography because I shall offer the first seven chapters as if I had never written a book, the last seven as if that were all I had done." But the book clearly is a memoir, not an autobiography -- and an unusual memoir because it’s a mix of reminiscences and reflections on writing; some good stuff, some tedious. Michener was in his 80s when he wrote this version of his memoirs (there are others). As I read it, I had the impression that Michener was taking perhaps his last opportunity to share thoughts that had rattled around in his head for 50 years. These included considerable praise and appreciation for people who had influenced or helped him along the way. He also has a fair amount to say about luck -- both good and bad -- and is quite specific about occasions when he benefited by good luck, perhaps more than most people. Perhaps the most valuable thoughts in the book deal with his good fortune in winning the Pulitzer Prize for Tales of The South Pacific, which launched his writing career: "The only generalization I can offer is that in an irrational world if a prudent course has been followed, you make yourself eligible to capitalize on luck if it happens to strike. If you have not made yourself eligible, you may never be aware that luck is at hand." He goes on to describe how he had made himself eligible to "seize the breaks if and when they come." Several chapters in the first section of the book are humorous, especially his experiences in the South Pacific, and several chapters in the later section seem a bit defensive about his fame, although he claims that two of his basic tenants are "never complain" and "never explain." Overall, I'm glad I read this book and I may try again to read one of his lengthy novels -- this time Texas, since it's sitting in our bookcase. I hope I like his version of the Lone Star State more than I liked his version of Poland. But first I'll finish the second reading of Tales of the South Pacific.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Robin

    Throughout this charming autobiography, James A. Michener portrays himself as an average man with average talent and experience. He wrote nothing non-academic until after age 40. He says he only became successful by immersing himself in his subject matter and by keeping a strictly disciplined writing schedule. As one reads the biography though, it’s obvious that his character and lifestyle are far from average. He calls himself a storyteller rather than an author. He wrote this book at age 84, a Throughout this charming autobiography, James A. Michener portrays himself as an average man with average talent and experience. He wrote nothing non-academic until after age 40. He says he only became successful by immersing himself in his subject matter and by keeping a strictly disciplined writing schedule. As one reads the biography though, it’s obvious that his character and lifestyle are far from average. He calls himself a storyteller rather than an author. He wrote this book at age 84, and it is less formally written than many of his books. The autobiography is refreshingly nonlinear. It begins in a time and place familiar to most readers: when Michener was employed by the Navy in the South Pacific towards the end of WWII. He tells of surviving mutiny and plane crashes, and of his later government work as investigator of things amiss in the islands. We see the source of some of his fiction, and how he became a writer under the most unlikely conditions. Throughout the book we get hints that his childhood was unusual, but he saves the biggest surprises for the last chapters. Michener talks about his love of music, art, and literature, how his political views changed throughout the years, fascinating people he has known, the hard work of research and writing, health issues, and his charitable work, among other topics. He seems to be an optimistic man who views the world with compassion and is curious about just about everything. This book is a great read, especially if you like biographies or books by James A. Michener. It’s a portrait of a humble and likable man who had more than a few unique and unusual experiences.

  10. 5 out of 5

    John Majors

    Very inspiring book for those wanting to write/create. Michener wrote something like 40 books in his life. His VERY FIRST BOOK won the Pulitzer and was turned into a world famous broadway show and movie "South Pacific." That launched him, but he still had to keep writing. He does a good job painting a picture for how easy it would have been for him to quit after that first book. So many people told him he couldn't write and he should give up (including his agent!), that he was lucky to win the P Very inspiring book for those wanting to write/create. Michener wrote something like 40 books in his life. His VERY FIRST BOOK won the Pulitzer and was turned into a world famous broadway show and movie "South Pacific." That launched him, but he still had to keep writing. He does a good job painting a picture for how easy it would have been for him to quit after that first book. So many people told him he couldn't write and he should give up (including his agent!), that he was lucky to win the Pulitzer (which he readily acknowledges), yet he took a real hard look at himself and asked if he thought he could be a writer. And he did, so he went for it. A number of his books are well over 1,000 pages. As important is the way he lived his life. He didn't just sit at a desk and write. He lived a very diverse life which included running for public office and serving on various government commissions and boards (like the committee that chooses which USPS stamps are made). He traveled extensively and sought out adventures, like helping refugees escape from one country to another. He also pursued his passions of music and art. He LIVED life and that gave him much to write about. A good reminder that creating doesn't come from a void. You can't spend your life in a cubicle and have anything to offer. Creativity is a stream that must be fed by life experience if you want to have anything worth writing about.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Brian

    In my teens and twenties, I was a big fan of James A. Michener, and I have read most of his books, some of them ("Tales of the South Pacific" and "The Source") more than once. So I was curious to read his auto-biography and was pleased that I did. I did not know much about Michener the person, and he incorporated just about everything I would ever have wanted to learn about him: his youth in Doylestown, PA, his college years at Swarthmore College, his life up to WWII, his career in the U.S. Navy In my teens and twenties, I was a big fan of James A. Michener, and I have read most of his books, some of them ("Tales of the South Pacific" and "The Source") more than once. So I was curious to read his auto-biography and was pleased that I did. I did not know much about Michener the person, and he incorporated just about everything I would ever have wanted to learn about him: his youth in Doylestown, PA, his college years at Swarthmore College, his life up to WWII, his career in the U.S. Navy during WWII, and his post-war life first as an editor and finally as a writer. He spoke of growing up as an orphan, his failed marriages, and some of the difficult health issues he faced as he grew older. But mostly he spoke of his world travels and how he used them to write his numerous books on places and cultures of the world. You would probably enjoy this book more if you read at least some of his books.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Cynthia

    His memoir was too long! In the edition I read, it ran 512 pages, there were so few times that I found myself quickly turning pages to read what was next. If he had written his novels in this fashion I would never have read more than one. I rate him as one of my favorite writers (he prefers this designation than "author"), but I just wish I had never read this book. I also found it frustrating that he never mentions how he came to live with the woman whom he would later think of as his mother. H His memoir was too long! In the edition I read, it ran 512 pages, there were so few times that I found myself quickly turning pages to read what was next. If he had written his novels in this fashion I would never have read more than one. I rate him as one of my favorite writers (he prefers this designation than "author"), but I just wish I had never read this book. I also found it frustrating that he never mentions how he came to live with the woman whom he would later think of as his mother. He describes how she took in foster children, and how he thought of himself as a "Michener," however, was he actually adopted by her? He noted that at the time he joined the Navy he had a problem due to the fact that he did not have a birth certificate; and he never tells the reader anything about her as he grew older! That annoyed me.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Armelle

    An interesting but frustrating read, James Michener's autobiography is organized basically thematically rather than chronologically - with endless annoying references to what he's either said before or what he's going to tell you later. Much of it was interesting - James Michener came from extremely humble beginnings, but led an extraordinarily large life - but there were more than a few eye rolls at yet another "I'm so smart/humble/honest/well-educated/whatever" passage. It was also an extremely An interesting but frustrating read, James Michener's autobiography is organized basically thematically rather than chronologically - with endless annoying references to what he's either said before or what he's going to tell you later. Much of it was interesting - James Michener came from extremely humble beginnings, but led an extraordinarily large life - but there were more than a few eye rolls at yet another "I'm so smart/humble/honest/well-educated/whatever" passage. It was also an extremely slow read. I could rarely read more than about 12 pages at a sitting, which is a bit of a problem with a 500+ page book. So --- mixed feelings on this one. It was interesting enough that I never seriously considered giving up, but I was mighty glad when it was over. (Which is pretty much how I feel about his novels, too.)

  14. 4 out of 5

    Haggis Chihuahua

    My Dawg, but I'm glad I finally finished reading this one--five hundred pages, all of them pretentious, in which he explains over and over and over again why he's not pretentious. GAH! Michener has long been one of my favorite authors, but if the man himself was anything like he presented in this memoir, he had to be the most annoying person in whatever room he walked into, and in whatever city he chose to live. I gave this two stars only because he was a veteran of WWII and I have much respect f My Dawg, but I'm glad I finally finished reading this one--five hundred pages, all of them pretentious, in which he explains over and over and over again why he's not pretentious. GAH! Michener has long been one of my favorite authors, but if the man himself was anything like he presented in this memoir, he had to be the most annoying person in whatever room he walked into, and in whatever city he chose to live. I gave this two stars only because he was a veteran of WWII and I have much respect for that service. But unless you enjoy reading the babbling of an octogenarian, you probably want to avoid this book. As for me, I'll forget this one and instead focus on books like Chesapeake, Centennial, Alaska and Hawaii.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Michael

    One of the very best books about one of the very best authors of all times. I believe Michener's passing left a huge void in the literary world, which will take some time to fill. This is a must for anyone who every enjoyed his books. One of the very best books about one of the very best authors of all times. I believe Michener's passing left a huge void in the literary world, which will take some time to fill. This is a must for anyone who every enjoyed his books.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Colin Drake

    Michener is the archetype for "a gentleman." This book can be a bit dry in certain spots, it's not for everyone, but if you want to read a story about a man who lived a damn good life then I think this may be a good place to start. Michener is the archetype for "a gentleman." This book can be a bit dry in certain spots, it's not for everyone, but if you want to read a story about a man who lived a damn good life then I think this may be a good place to start.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Valerie Bell

    This book was an interesting autobiographical insight into Michener's early life and the geography and cultures that formed his writing. Probably only interesting if you are a Michener fan. I am. This book was an interesting autobiographical insight into Michener's early life and the geography and cultures that formed his writing. Probably only interesting if you are a Michener fan. I am.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Eileen Division

    Wordy, but that's Michener. He spins a good yarn, even about his own life. Wordy, but that's Michener. He spins a good yarn, even about his own life.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Cliff Ward

    'You're not a Michener! Who in hell do you think you are, trying to be better than you are?" This is one of James early memories when he was refused birthday cake at a family party when he was a young child. Orphan James, taken in by a very poor but loving single woman when he was a young boy, lived in a total state of poverty such that he grew up with nutritional deficiencies which caused long lasting health problems and he had never played with a single toy that he did not have the creativity t 'You're not a Michener! Who in hell do you think you are, trying to be better than you are?" This is one of James early memories when he was refused birthday cake at a family party when he was a young child. Orphan James, taken in by a very poor but loving single woman when he was a young boy, lived in a total state of poverty such that he grew up with nutritional deficiencies which caused long lasting health problems and he had never played with a single toy that he did not have the creativity to make himself from old pieces of junk. Despite the pain of rejection from some of the other 'true Michener' family members he decided there was no point for him to 'want' the things he didn't have and he decided to cut them completely from his mind. But what he did magically find was a library. It contained endless books he could read for free. He started reading and discovered the world beyond him and behind him in tales of far off lands in times long since past and through his reading he found the heroes and role models that had escaped him in the real world. James A Michener just never stopped trying. He got three college degrees and became a professor and professional teacher. Joining the Navy during WW2 and becoming a war correspondent he found himself in the South Pacific where he wrote his first book and won the Politzer Prize for Literature. James became a world renowned writer of some 40 globally selling books. In addition he ran for office as a Democrat and traveled the world sometimes as a political advisor or a reporting specialist. He was the guest of a number of US Presidents and famous people around the world including the Pope and the Queen of England. By the end of his life he had given away to various charities more than US$100 million. Various institutions regularly asked if they could name buildings or physical sites such as hotel suites in his name, but somehow he could never quite forget the taunting cruelties of those other children during his formative years and at such times he simply stated he wanted to be remembered as a writer and he thought the best legacy would be a row of books on a shelf which would educate and inspire the generations to come. This book runs from story to story neither keeping any chronological order nor any other pattern which can be easily followed. It certainly is helpful the more of his books you have read, as many of his stories in this book are based on the efforts to create some of his great novels and the challenges therein. But for me the last chapter where he discusses his life meanings was the one with far the most interest. I wish there had been more details about his upbringing and the more personal side of his life. Perhaps even in such an autobiography looking back on his life aged 85 years some things are just too sensitive and painful to really contemplate. I will take the experience of this book along with me as I continue to read more of James A Michener's great books and novels. Thank you James.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Amber Lea

    This book is really hard to rate, because my feelings about it were all over the place. Parts of it were so interesting that I couldn't put it down, and other parts were really dull, and others downright annoying. For example, I felt like he was constantly pointing out that he's an exceptionally humble man, while also pointing out that's he's pretty damn good at everything. "I'm not a genius or anything, but...obvs, I'm a genius you guys, come on." It's probably important to point out that I haven This book is really hard to rate, because my feelings about it were all over the place. Parts of it were so interesting that I couldn't put it down, and other parts were really dull, and others downright annoying. For example, I felt like he was constantly pointing out that he's an exceptionally humble man, while also pointing out that's he's pretty damn good at everything. "I'm not a genius or anything, but...obvs, I'm a genius you guys, come on." It's probably important to point out that I haven't read any of his work with the exception of this memoir. I'm just obsessed with reading people's accounts of their own lives, so it's difficult for me to speak to the kind of writer he is overall, because I'd honestly never heard of him before I picked up this book. (Which makes me feel stupid to say, because it's constantly being pointed out to me that he's kind of a big deal.) But I could see his other works being very good. But frustratingly, based on this, I'm not sure if I want to sit through another of his books. Perhaps part of my issue is that his personal philosophies and politics aren't really my cup of tea. He's a moderate liberal (in the 90's sense) who's clearly eager to be liked by everyone and who rocks the boat in incredibly inoffensive ways. He's also a total old guy who feels the need to point out people's genders and races, and be like, "Hey guys, I'm so progressive. I employ lady lawyers." Wow. Not that I fault him for it too much because...dude was born over a 100 years ago. It was another time. I get that. But it's annoying when he's like, "Look how ahead of the times I was." Cool. The chapter on art was the worst. You spend most of the chapter trying to figure out what he's even talking about (ice cream? Opera?), and then when you do (art!), he's basically like, "I had to learn not to care what other people think" but he clearly very much cares what people think. He obviously wants to have the right opinions all throughout the book. He's clearly willing to walk away from things he likes if he thinks they're not important in the eyes of others. He points that out multiple times in the book, not just in the context of art. And that weird inconsistency comes back again and again. Where it's like he wants to believe these things are true about himself, but he's clearly not there yet. But on the other hand, I never thought I would be as interested in the kind of stories he was telling as I was. I'm like damn, I just legit enjoyed reading multiple war stories. I don't even know who I am anymore. And I learned some interesting things about how stamps are chosen so...it was definitely educational. The man has done it all, and he knows a lot about a lot of subjects. But I think the thing I really enjoyed was that he wrote about times I will never experience and that no one alive today can tell me about. He REMEMBERS the 20's and 30's, you know? That's invaluable. It's like hearing stories from the grandpa I never had. I don't know. I have a million disjointed opinions of this book so I'm just going to leave it at that.

  21. 4 out of 5

    KennyO

    It would be valuable to have read at least a few of Michener’s novels before delving into this memoir. His recounting is not chronological (it’s organized by topic) nor does he give many dates in the anecdotes so you may understandably get a mite confused as to when he did what he did. If you have rules about how memoirs should be composed, perhaps give this one a bye. There are plenty of reviews to peruse so I’ll limit remarks to saying that I got more from some parts than from others. I enjoye It would be valuable to have read at least a few of Michener’s novels before delving into this memoir. His recounting is not chronological (it’s organized by topic) nor does he give many dates in the anecdotes so you may understandably get a mite confused as to when he did what he did. If you have rules about how memoirs should be composed, perhaps give this one a bye. There are plenty of reviews to peruse so I’ll limit remarks to saying that I got more from some parts than from others. I enjoyed nearly all of this book, with the exceptions being my failings, not his. Reflecting on those who take Michener to task for what reads like braggadocio in here, I connect it to what Baseball Hall of Fame pitcher Dizzy Dean said about himself, “It ain’t bragging if you can do it.” Michener could and did. In this memoir he wrote, “My job has been to write books, not defend them.” A story from a friend of long ago. You can skip this and miss nothing WRT the book. In the 1960s the friend’s brother was in the Navy in Japan. While waiting ashore for his transfer orders, said brother was a driver for officers and VIPs. One day he was sent to an Air Force base to pick up a civilian VIP and deliver him to his destination, 2-3 hours away. During the ride the man talked nearly without pause about everything the passed or saw and about much else, besides. Before long brother wished the guy would hold his tongue and mentally stopped hearing him. At the destination, when he opened the car door, his passenger was greeted by a couple of brass hats, “Welcome to ______ Mr. Michener.” Brother’s heart sank; Michener was his favorite writer by far. There were no introductions at the pick up site nor during the drive so he’d squandered the opportunity of a lifetime. I’d like to believe that at least some of that lost opportunity is embedded in this book.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Susan Williams

    A bit wordy, a bit egotistical That about sums it up. Yes, Michener was prolific with his long books, good for a long summer read or snuggled up in front of a winter fire. But he needs a good editor to cut down the cloying repetition. I have in the past enjoyed many of his books, Hawaii, The Source, Chesapeake but that must have been a time when I had nothing else to do. At the close of this book was an excerpt from Hawaii and I can see how the cadence of the words can lull one into a dreamlike w A bit wordy, a bit egotistical That about sums it up. Yes, Michener was prolific with his long books, good for a long summer read or snuggled up in front of a winter fire. But he needs a good editor to cut down the cloying repetition. I have in the past enjoyed many of his books, Hawaii, The Source, Chesapeake but that must have been a time when I had nothing else to do. At the close of this book was an excerpt from Hawaii and I can see how the cadence of the words can lull one into a dreamlike word picture state but looking at it with fresh eyes used to more succinct writers of today, it seems terribly self indulgent, saying the same things over and over in different ways around in circles. Good saga material for an oral culture perhaps but I think today's reader has time constraints. Back to the memoir, it was interesting in places, particularly his comments on his writing process, the business of publishing and how he sourced his material. Some parts of his interminable long chapters were quite a slog, going over in minute detail his love of every opera he ever came across, ditto classical music compositions. While disclaiming any ego, he certainly had no problem telling us how great he was with all his accomplishments and natural genetic gifts both physical and mental. I would have liked to hear more about his experiences in life and less about his philosophies and opinions. However, it was his story to write even as he admitted to a certain avoidance of emotional issues and negativities. All this being said, I admired his gumption, persistance, hard work, interest in people and a broad range of subjects, his wonderful philanthropy and his willingness to follow his own path and instincts. So, it was worth the read and that is why I stuck with it...for the gems.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Alice Griffin

    Excellent writing as one would expect from Michener. This book, his memoir, gives much insight into what motivated him to write and how he was able to be such a prolific writer. Perhaps even more so than his best characters, Michener was an accomplished human being far beyond the books he wrote. He was extremely intelligent - encyclopedic, actually and had so many things he loved and explored. He became an expert in all that interested him. In reading this book, I felt as if I knew him personall Excellent writing as one would expect from Michener. This book, his memoir, gives much insight into what motivated him to write and how he was able to be such a prolific writer. Perhaps even more so than his best characters, Michener was an accomplished human being far beyond the books he wrote. He was extremely intelligent - encyclopedic, actually and had so many things he loved and explored. He became an expert in all that interested him. In reading this book, I felt as if I knew him personally. The consummate storyteller telling the story of himself. What more could one want?

  24. 4 out of 5

    Barbara

    Michener was a fine writer and researcher and a generous patron of the arts; he was also an expert at using the “humble brag” in his memoir. At one point, I expected him to drop in a throw away line about visiting Mars. He didn’t, but I think he “humbly” recorded every single thing he ever did that he was proud of, while reminding us how humble he was all the while. Still, I imagine he was an interesting person to talk to, and he certainly left a remarkable legacy behind.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Patti Townley-Covert

    Almost put this book down as it was slow reading. But just about that time, I became more engrossed in the story and his experiences as a writer so the inconsequential details seemed worth reading to get to the valuable nuggets. I had no idea Michener's life was as full as it was or the lengths he went to in order to understand the topics he wrote about. Almost put this book down as it was slow reading. But just about that time, I became more engrossed in the story and his experiences as a writer so the inconsequential details seemed worth reading to get to the valuable nuggets. I had no idea Michener's life was as full as it was or the lengths he went to in order to understand the topics he wrote about.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Dano

    Great memoir by one of my favorite authors. A modest reflection of his life from start Well into his 80s ... well traveled, a veteran and a patriot, not interesting in selling books but rather telling stories. A writer. Have loved his narratives and this memoir sets the stage for many of his writings with behind the scene thoughts. Can’t wait to read all of his novels.

  27. 4 out of 5

    William H. Brown

    A Learning Experience I've read Michener before - Hawaii, Alaska, The Source - but never anything about Michener. What a unique, interesting, and brilliant man he was. What a thoroughly full life he lead. You'll learn much from him. And it all comes from the man himself - no second or third hand anecdotes. Highly recommended. A Learning Experience I've read Michener before - Hawaii, Alaska, The Source - but never anything about Michener. What a unique, interesting, and brilliant man he was. What a thoroughly full life he lead. You'll learn much from him. And it all comes from the man himself - no second or third hand anecdotes. Highly recommended.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Jan Norton

    Over the years I have read most of James Michener‘s book books. And I have enjoyed each one though some more than others. This book which is a look into the man that Michener is was truly a delight to read. He is a man who practice what he believed I did not cave to pressure or money. I’m glad I took the time to read this book.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Tracy

    ok, so I actually only read like 60% of the book before skipping to the end. What I read was excellent, but it was a lot same-same after awhile. The guy had an interesting life and really made the most of it.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Arvind Mahadevan

    Generally , I LOVE Michener novels but this is the first work of his that I did not. This memoir seemed more like a collection of disjointed essays rather than a coherent narrative. Some of the parts were and others were painfully dull. It is mediocre by Michener standards.

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