Friday, January 13, 2012

James Michener

I finished Chesapeake. Took months but I finally finished it. You see, reading a James Michener novel cover-to-cover is a challenge. Check this picture; dude knew how to research, and it all came out on paper. According to Wiki, he wrote 12-15 hours a day and kept a 'filing system' which had trouble 'keeping up.' Brings to mind a filing robot with telescopic arms overheating during the penning of Mexico.

A Michener novel is the perfect antidote to internet addiction, I swear. All books are, really, but Michener's are particularly good for it. His bricks inhabit your life---your nightstand, bookbag---remind you to put down the laptop and step into another world. That's how it felt for me anyway; ashamed about refreshing facebook and twitter for the third time that hour, I'd retire and knock out a chapter.

For books that are intrinsically concerned with time, Michener's books feel timeless. They put the present on pause, transport you back (corny, I know, bear with me), and allow you to unplug from your hyper-connected life, allow you to care deeply about Hugo Pflaum's quest to confiscate the Turlock's long gun called the Twombly, a gun which annihilates hundreds of ducks/ geese with each shot. Allow you to feel sad when Pentaquod dies, his tribe decimated, the future of Indians in serious trouble. Allow you to bear witness to the lives of Quakers, Catholics, Protestants, slaves, John Calhoun, arsters, and flocks of geese.

Common criticism: underdeveloped characters, formulaic writing, endlessly detailed passages. Readers with these problems have a right to them, but they miss the point. Michener needs to examine the spirit of a place. Always, that is the purpose. I'm now imbued with the spirit of Chesapeake bay; I hunger for schooners, for that a succulent goose in my rotund Winter belly. More importantly, perhaps, I'm hungry to go somewhere else. On my shelf: Texas, Caribbean, The Covenant, and Alaska. Not right now, necessarily, but when I'm editing a tweet for characters or memorizing the tracklist for an inconsequential album, I'll get fed up and return to that beautiful man's world.

PS - People have taken to writing Twitter novels. Only wish Michener could comment. There is no way, not now and not ever, that these can be successful. Give me a fucking break. Half-assed song lyric micro-meta garbage.

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