James A. Michener
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|James A. Michener|
February 3, 1907|
Doylestown, Bucks County, Pennsylvania, United States
|Died||October 16, 1997
Austin, Texas, United States
Short story writer
|Notable work(s)||Tales of the South Pacific (1946)|
|Notable award(s)||1948: Pulitzer Prize for Fiction
1977: Presidential Medal of Freedom
2008: Honorary portrait image on a United States postage stamp
James Albert Michener (//; February 3, 1907 – October 16, 1997) was an American author of more than 40 titles, the majority of which were sweeping family sagas, covering the lives of many generations in particular geographic locales and incorporating historical facts into the stories. Michener was known for the meticulous research behind his work.
Michener's major books include Tales of the South Pacific (for which he won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1948), Hawaii, The Drifters, Centennial, The Source, The Fires of Spring, Chesapeake, Caribbean, Caravans, Alaska, Texas, and Poland. His nonfiction works include the 1968 Iberia about his travels in Spain and Portugal, his 1992 memoir The World Is My Home, and Sports in America. Return to Paradise combines fictional short stories with Michener's factual descriptions of the Pacific areas where they take place.
Michener wrote that he did not know who his biological parents were or exactly when or where he was born. He claimed he was raised a Quaker by an adoptive mother, Mabel Michener, in Doylestown, Bucks County, Pennsylvania.
Michener graduated from Doylestown High School in 1925. He attended Swarthmore College, where he played basketball, and joined the Phi Delta Theta fraternity. He graduated with highest honors. He attended Colorado State Teachers College (now named the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley, Colorado), and earned his master's degree.
After graduating Phi Beta Kappa and summa cum laude in 1929 from Swarthmore College in English and psychology, he traveled and studied in Europe for two years. Michener then took a job as a high school English teacher at The Hill School in Pottstown, Pennsylvania. From 1933 to 1936 he taught English at George School, in Newtown, Pennsylvania, then attended Colorado State Teachers College (now the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley, Colorado), earned his master's degree, and taught there for several years. The library at the University of Northern Colorado is named for him. In 1935, Michener married Patti Koon. He went to Harvard for a one-year teaching stint from 1939 to 1940 and left teaching to join Macmillan Publishers as their social studies education editor.
Michener was called to active duty during World War II in the United States Navy. He traveled throughout the South Pacific Ocean on various missions that were assigned to him because his base commanders thought he was the son of Admiral Marc Mitscher. His travels became the setting for his breakout work Tales of the South Pacific.
In 1960, Michener was chairman of the Bucks County committee to elect John F. Kennedy. In 1962, he unsuccessfully ran as a Democratic candidate for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives from Pennsylvania, a decision he later considered a misstep. "My mistake was to run in 1962 as a Democratic candidate for Congress. [My wife] kept saying, 'Don't do it, don't do it.' I lost and went back to writing books."
In 1968, Michener served as the campaign manager for twice-elected US senator Joseph S. Clark's third term run. Michener was later Secretary for the 1967–68 Pennsylvania Constitutional Convention.
Michener's writing career began during World War II when, as a lieutenant in the Navy, he was assigned to the South Pacific Ocean as a naval historian. He later turned his notes and impressions into Tales of the South Pacific, his first book, published in 1947, when he was 40. It became the basis for the Broadway and film musical South Pacific by Rodgers and Hammerstein. Tales of the South Pacific won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1948.
Michener tried his hand at television writing as well, but found no success in that medium. Among other things, American television producer Bob Mann wanted James Michener to co-create a weekly anthology series from Tales of the South Pacific, with Michener as narrator. Rodgers and Hammerstein, however, owned all dramatic rights to the novel and did not give up ownership. Michener did lend his name to a different television series, Adventures in Paradise, in 1959. In the late 1950s, Michener began working as a roving editor for Readers' Guide to Periodical Literature. He gave up that work in 1970.
Michener was a popular writer during his lifetime; his novels sold an estimated 75 million copies worldwide. His novel Hawaii (published in 1959) was based on extensive research. Nearly all of his subsequent novels were based on detailed historical, cultural, and even geological research. Centennial, which documented several generations of families in the West, was made into a popular twelve-part television miniseries of the same name and aired on NBC from October 1978 through February 1979.
In 1996, State House Press published James A. Michener: A Bibliography, compiled by David A. Groseclose. Its more than 2,500 entries from 1923 to 1995 include magazine articles, forewords, and other works.
Michener's prodigious output made for lengthy novels, several of which run more than 1,000 pages. The author states in My Lost Mexico that at times he would spend 12 to 15 hours per day at his typewriter for weeks on end, and that he used so much paper his filing system had trouble keeping up.
Michener was married three times. In 1935, he married Patti Koon. In 1948, he divorced Koon and married his second wife, Vange Nord. Michener met his third wife, Mari Yoriko Sabusawa, at a luncheon in Chicago; they married in 1955 (the same year he and Nord divorced).
Michener gave away a great deal of the money he earned. Over the years, Mari Yoriko Sabusawa Michener played a major role in directing her husband's donations, totaling more than US$100 million. Among the beneficiaries were the University of Texas, the Iowa Writers Workshop, and Swarthmore College.
In 1989, Michener donated the royalty earnings from the Canadian edition of his novel Journey (published in Canada by McClelland & Stewart) to create the Journey Prize, an annual Canadian literary prize worth $10,000 (Cdn) that is awarded for the year's best short story published by an emerging Canadian writer.
Final years and death
In his final years, Michener lived in Austin, Texas, and, aside from being a prominent celebrity fan of the Texas Longhorns women's basketball team, he founded an MFA program now named the Michener Center for Writers.
Michener was cremated and the ashes placed next to those of his wife in the Austin Memorial Park. He is honored by a headstone at the Texas State Cemetery. Michener left most of his estate and the copyrights of his books to Swarthmore College.
On August 1, 1994, Michener endorsed the naming of "Michener's" for the restaurant at Iririki Island Resort, Port Vila, Vanuatu, and in his letter of endorsement wrote: "Many of the fondest memories of my travels stem back to my years of military service in the New Hebrides -- now Vanuatu -- during the Pacific War years of the early 1940s...While those beautiful islands have changed much with progress in the ensuing years, I know from subsequent visits that the friendliness of the peoples, their infectious smiles and their open-heartedness will remain forever one of life's treasures." Much of his first book, Tales of the South Pacific, was written on Espiritu Santo Island in Vanuatu.
On the evening of September 14, 1998, the Raffles Hotel in Singapore named one of their suites after the author, in memory of his patronage and passion for the hotel. Michener first stayed at the Singapore hotel just after World War II in 1949, and in an interview a decade before his death, he said it was a luxury for him, a young man, to stay at the Raffles Hotel back then, and had the time of his life. It was officially christened by Steven J. Green, then Ambassador of United States to Singapore, who noted the writer's penchant of describing 'faraway places with strange-sounding names' to his American book readers. Michener's last stay was in 1985 when he came to Singapore for the launch of the book Salute to Singapore, for which he wrote the foreword. He was so fond of his last stay in Raffles that he took the hotel room key home with him as a souvenir. The suite contains a selection of Michener's works, like Caribbean, The Drifters, and Hawaii, as well as two photographic portraits of the author taken at the hotel and in Chinatown in 1985. After his death, the Michener estate corresponded with the hotel management to return the room key, and from there the idea to name the hotel room after him, came into fruition. The souvenir key was duly returned to the hotel, and now on display in the Raffles Hotel Museum.
In 1993, the U.S. Navy Memorial Foundation awarded Michener its Lone Sailor Award for his naval service and his literary achievements.
James A. Michener Art Museum
Opened in 1988 in Michener's hometown of Doylestown, Pennsylvania, the James A. Michener Art Museum houses collections of local and well-known artists. The museum, constructed from the remains of an old prison, is a non-profit organization, with both permanent and rotating collections. Two prominent permanent fixtures are the James A. Michener display room and the Nakashima Reading Room, constructed in honor of his third wife's Japanese heritage. The museum is known for its permanent collection of Pennsylvania Impressionist paintings.
James A. Michener Society
The James A. Michener Society was formed in the fall of 1998 and is composed of people who share a common interest in James Michener's life and work.
The Purpose of the Society is to:
- preserve the intellectual legacy of James A. Michener as a writer, teacher, historian, public servant, patriot and philanthropist;
- ensure that future generations have full access to all his writings;
- promote the exchange of ideas and information about his writings;
- encourage fellowship among readers of his writings;
- inform devotees and members of the Society about recent publications and critiques of his writings.
The Society accomplishes this through a number of activities[clarification needed] and an electronic newsletter that is published periodically. An annual meeting of members is held at locations closely associated with James Michener's life.
In addition to writing novels, short stories and non-fiction, Michener was very involved with movies, TV series, and radio. The following is only a major part of what is listed in the Library of Congress files.
Books — fiction
|Book Title||Year Published|
|Tales of the South Pacific||1947|
|The Fires of Spring||1949|
|Return to Paradise||1950|
|The Bridges at Toko-ri||1953|
|Miracle in Seville||1995|
Books — non-fiction
|Book Title||Year Published||Notes|
|The Future of the Social Studies ("The Problem of the Social Studies")||1939||Editor|
|The Voice of Asia||1951|
|The Floating World||1954|
|The Bridge at Andau||1957|
|Rascals in Paradise||1957|
|Japanese Prints: From the Early Masters to the Modern||1959||With notes by Richard Lane|
|Report of the County Chairman||1961|
|The Modern Japanese Print: An Appreciation||1968|
|The Quality of Life||1970|
|Kent State: What Happened and Why||1971|
|Michener Miscellany – 1950/1970||1973|
|Firstfruits, A Harvest of 25 Years of Israeli Writing||1973|
|Sports in America||1976|
|About Centennial: Some Notes on the Novel||1978|
|James A Michener's USA: The People and the Land||1981||Edited by Peter Chaitin; foreword by Michener|
|Collectors, Forgers — And A Writer: A Memoir||1983|
|Six Days in Havana||1989|
|Pilgrimage: A Memoir of Poland and Rome||1990|
|The Eagle and the Raven||1990|
|My Lost Mexico||1992|
|The World Is My Home||1992||Autobiography|
|Creatures of the Kingdom||1993|
|Ventures in Editing||1995|
|This Noble Land||1996|
|Three Great Novels of World War II||1996|
|A Century of Sonnets||1997|
|The Bridges at Toko-Ri||1953 film|
|Return to Paradise||1953 film|
|Men of the Fighting Lady||1954 film|
|Until They Sail||1957 film based on a short story included in Return to Paradise|
|Sayonara||1957 film nominated for 10 Academy Awards, won 4; including Best Supporting Actress, for Miyoshi Umeki the first and as of 2010, the only East Asian Actress to win an Oscar.|
|South Pacific||1958 film|
|Adventures in Paradise||1959–1962 television series|
|The Hawaiians||1970 film|
|Centennial||1978 TV miniseries|
|Caravans||1978 film starring Anthony Quinn|
|Space||1985 TV miniseries|
|James A. Michener's Texas|
|South Pacific||2001 television movie|
- "Michener". The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language (Fourth ed.). Houghton Mifflin. 2004.
- Albin Krebs (1997-10-17). "James Michener, Author of Novels That Sweep Through the History of Places, Is Dead". New York Times. Retrieved 2009-11-05.
- Pennsylvania Center for the Book - Michener Biography, Penn State University Libraries
- Biographical Sketch, James A. Michener Papers, University of Miami liberary
- Michener, James A. Return to Paradise Random House 1951
- Beers, Paul B. (1976-03-31). Pennsylvania Politics Today and Yesterday: The Tolerable Accommodation. Penn State University Press. p. 198. ISBN =978-0271002385 Check
- "Get me Michener at Raffles". Singapore: The New Paper. September 16, 1998.
- Hayes, John Michael. James A. Michener: A Biography, p. 158; Bobbs-Merrill 1984
- Hayes, p. 159
- "James Michener Biography". Bookrags.com. Retrieved May 3, 2009.
- Biography at IMDB
- "Death notice for Mari Yoriko Sabusawa Michener". The New York Times.
- "Journey Prize".
- Find A Grave: James A. Michener
- O'Neill, James (March 1, 1998). "Michener's gift keeps on giving". Philadelphia Inquirer.
- Two American Legends Appearing on Stamps: The Postal Service Honors James Michener and Dr. Edward Trudeau.
Hayes John Phillip, James A. Michener: A Biography, Bobbs Merril 1985
- James A. Michener: A Biography, 1985.
- James A. Michener: The Beginning Teacher, 1995. His formative school years with Michener's personal reminiscences. Published by The Book Stops Here.
- James A. Michener: A Bibliography, 1996.
- Michener and Me: A Memoir by Herman Silverman; hardcover 1999, paperback 2003. Memoir by a long-time friend of Michener.
- Michener: A Writer's Journey, 2005.
- Michener's The Name, 2006 by photographer Robert Vavra. Vavra's photo essay and commentary on Michener's writing of Iberia in Spain.
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- Works by or about James A. Michener in libraries (WorldCat catalog)
- James A. Michener at the Internet Movie Database
- Published books with covers
- James A. Michener Library at the University of Northern Colorado
- James A. Michener Society
- James A. Michener Special Collection: David A. Groseclose
- James A. Michener Art Museum, Doylestown, PA
- Michener Center for Writers
- Michener: His Influence and Ethics by Edward Rutherfurd
- Working with James A. Michener — The Making of The Covenant
- Biographical Entry at the Texas State Cemetery
- James A. Michener at Find a Grave