Friday, August 31, 2012


I know I'm probably not going to splain this properly, but I'll give it a try......

As I prepared for my month-long salute to James Michener's 'Centennial', I re-read certain sections of the novel, watched segments of it from the boxed set and from YouTube, and found other aficionados online with their own opinions on this sprawling epic about the expansion of the country, all presented in the microcosmic spotlight of Zendt's Farm.

I also read 'Hawaii' in the past, and am currently mired in 'Chesapeake' (although I plan to pick it up again while on vacation.) And it suddenly occurred to me that Michener could be this country's equivalent to Britain's J.R.R. Tolkien.

The genres of their writing couldn't be more different, although I'm sure Tolkien would have argued that he was writing fictionalized history as well. He wanted to provide an historical mythology to the people of the British Isles and Michener found his niche in supplying a fictionalized history for the people of the United States - one which may not have contained the fantasty elements to be found in Middle Earth, but which did have touches of legend and tall tales, the American version of fantasy.

I just wish Michener could have found some way to link his historical novels together into a magnum opus, as Tolkien did with his Elvish lore. Maybe the Takemotos, who arrived in Centennial to work for Potato Brumbaugh, could have been related to Sakagawa Kamejiro, who traveled from Hiroshima to Hawaii to work in the sugar cane fields. (Like I said, I'm still plowing through 'Chesapeake' - I think I'm in a better frame of mind for it - but I'd like to find out that some ancillary relative of the main characters struck out West and ended up in Colorado.)

I just hope Michener never goes out of fashion, that his books will still be required reading in classrooms, as 'Hawaii' was for me back in high school. And especially that the teachers present these books in such a way so that the students find the spark of excitement within as they become involved with these characters. (Nyuk Tsin Kee checking her toes for leprosy, the final "showdown" between Sheriff Axel Dumire and Philip Wendell - these are fictional moments that will stay with me forever in much the same way those small moments shared by the Fellowship of the Ring do.)

Yeah..... I don't think I made my case. Anyhoo......


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