One of my favorite authors is James Michener. He wrote many best-selling books. Among them are ‘Centennial”, “The Source”, “. Hawaii”, “South Pacific” and “Sayonara These books were written over a period of two decades or so and they have become well-known and widely read.
What makes Michener’s book so popular? I would say that it is because he is a magical story-teller. He writes in simple easy-to-understand language so that an average reader can follow his storyline without any problem. His knowledge of the subject he is writing on is impeccable, that is to say, that he obviously does a lot of research. He does not try to hoodwink the reader by inventing things that cannot be believed, His stories are based on historical facts that are accurately placed in time and location.
Take for example his book “Hawaii”. This is an epic story that relates the beginning of Hawaii from its volcanic origins to its gradual development right up to the present age. In this book, the reader is taken on a virtual time-machine. He reads about the emergence of land from the sea as a result of volcanic activities. Then through thousands of years, the new land cools and become populated by islanders. Their beliefs, dreams, and struggle are described in tedious details so much so that an average reader would’ find it hard to let go of the book.
Then came the immigrants from the West, China, and Japan. The customs of the original Hawaiians became eroded till finally the population of Hawaii became mixed and varied as it is today. All in all, the book provides a memorable experience in reading. It is filled with historical facts and information.
Michener shows that he has deep insight into the minds of the various characters. He is able to bring out feelings and emotions. I can still remember the trials and tribulations of Char Nyuk Shin in the story. Her kidnap from China and eventual death at over a hundred years old are events I remember, even though I read the book a good five years ago.
Such is Michener’s narrative power. He is a master storyteller who puts a lot of care and effort into his books. “The Source” and “Centennial” are in the genre of “Hawaii.” Reading these books is like reliving the lives of people who lived long ago. In “The Source” the reader knows what it is like to be a Jew being persecuted through the centuries. He can also experience the dignity of Lame Beaver and the free spirit of Pasquinel in “Centennial”. The reader is taken on a journey of vivid imageries, of what it is like to be a human being in different times and different places. It leaves the reader with a better understanding and appreciation of the world in general. It made me more tolerant of others. I come to realize that human beings are necessarily different, and our greatness or worthlessness are relative things. Everything that begins must also end = only the rocks live forever.
Michener’s books have been adapted for television and the big screen. Just like his books, the films are equally popular. It goes to show that good stories are always appreciated, in book or movie form.
Nobody likes to be had his intelligence insulted. Some authors debase themselves by writing inaccurate or biased facts thinking that by sensationalizing their books with sex and violence they can become popular. Such authors die natural deaths. The readers are more intelligent than they think. Only genuine authors like Michener stand the test of time and emerge as giants in their field. I am thankful for such authors. They enrich the world.