Thursday, October 7, 1999

100 Who Made A Difference

Star James Michener Star

Star-Bulletin file photo
James Michener, left, signs a copy of his novel, "Hawaii,"
at the Waikiki Book Shop in 1959.

‘Hawaii’ among
author’s classics

By Tim Ryan


JAMES Michener may have written the most definitive and readable book about the Hawaiian Islands, a mixture of fact and fiction.

The author was known for the voluminous research he incorporated and made accessible in his writings.

When he died two years ago at age 90, Michener had more than 40 titles to his name.

Best remembered are his novels, which read like diaries chronicling his wanderlust: "Hawaii," "Mexico," "Chesapeake" and "Alaska."

Michener was born in New York City. His writing career began when his experiences during World War II (1939-1945) provided the material for a book of short stories, "Tales of the South Pacific" (1947), which won the 1948 Pulitzer Prize in fiction and was the source of the musical "South Pacific" (1949).

His 1959 "Hawaii" covered life from when the people from Bora Bora migrated here, through 1954 and the emerging of this American territory and soon-to-be state.

"I lived in a kind of dream world that's vanished," Michener once said. "But it was the making of me."

In 1955, he married third wife, Mari Yoriko Sabawa; in 1959 they placed their collection of Japanese prints in the Honolulu Academy of Arts, which later took title of the collection.

Abandoned by his parents shortly after birth, he never knew his roots. It wasn't until he was in his 30s that Michener found his calling as a writer.

By then, he was halfway around the world from Pennsylvania, watching the fierce World War II battles in the Pacific.

His U.S. Navy service sent him on numerous information-gathering missions, introducing him to 49 islands throughout the South Pacific.

Michener received honorary doctorates in five fields from 30 top universities, plus the Presidential Medal of Freedom, America's highest civilian award.

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