Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Yes, James Michener Was an Able Storyteller

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Yes, James Michener Was an Able Storyteller

Article excerpt

I had just finished a long drive listening to a books-on-tape

version of James A. Michener's novel, Recessional, the day the

author died.

The book is about a retirement facility in the Tampa Bay area

and a group of men and women who live there who are making the

most of life, from the brim to the dregs, as the old Sinatra

song says it.

It is about treasuring the wisdom and experience and

information that old folks have accumulated, often simply by

having lived a long time. It's about dignity and chutzpah.

Recessional seemed an appropriate book to have finished at that

particular time. Michener lived his life fully from the brim to

the dregs, down to the final days when he elected to stop

dialysis and to die.

He was 90, still working.

He wrote scores of books, good solid books that informed and

entertained and stood for something. He made millions of

dollars. He gave away millions of dollars, including at least

$45 million to the University of Texas.

When word came that Michener was dead, I recalled an interview

with him a year or so ago. All of us scribblers were respectful

and impressed, and one of the reporters said, "Mr. Michener,

I've read everything you've ever written."

"Oh, my," Michener said amiably to the young man, "I'd call

that a misspent life."

I thought also of T.H. "Jake" Jacoway, a real estate man in

Palatka with a more-than-average interest in writing and

writers. He's active in the Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings Society and

one of the trail bosses of the project to place historic markers

on the graves of the people Rawlings wrote about during the '30s

and '40s.

Jacoway is a great fan of Michener and he has a major

collection of Michener's work.

"A lot of them are signed first editions," he said last week.

"In fact, I just went to Cape Coral and bought a collection of

40-some books, most of them signed and inscribed to a friend of

his."

Jacoway doesn't just collect the books. He reads them. He began

collecting Michener because he enjoyed reading the books so

much.

"I think The Source was maybe the first of Michener's books

that I read and I liked it so much. That must have been 20 years

ago," Jacoway said.

Jacoway admired Michener for the variety and diversity of his

work. He wrote in depth and breadth about place -- Hawaii, the

South Pacific, Israel, Texas, South Africa, Alaska, the

Chesapeake. He wrote about art, about politics, about America

and its heritage and values. And always, always he wrote about

people.

Michener said that he did not consider himself a great stylist.

What he was, he said, was an able storyteller, a writer who

could handle narrative, no matter how it sprawled over time and

space, keep the reader curious to know what happened next. …

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