How to Write a Novel

The Novel Book Cover The Novel
James A. Michener
Fiction. literature
Dial Press
August 11, 2015
384

In this riveting, ambitious novel from James A. Michener, the renowned chronicler of epic history turns his extraordinary imagination to a world he knew better than anyone: the world of books. Lukas Yoder, a novelist who has enjoyed a long, successful career, has finished what he believes to be his final work. Then a tragedy strikes in his community, and he becomes obsessed with writing about it. Meanwhile, Yoder's editor fights to preserve her integrity—and her author—as her firm becomes the target of a corporate takeover; a local critic who teaches literature struggles with his ambitions and with his feelings about Yoder's success; and a devoted reader holds the key to solving the mystery that haunts Yoder's hometown. Praise for The Novel “Michener explores some of the deepest issues raised by narrative literature.”—The New York Times “A good, old-fashioned, sink-your-teeth-into-it story . . . The Novel lets us see an unfamiliar side of the author, at the same time portraying the delicate, complex relationship among editors, agents and writers.”—The Philadelphia Inquirer “Michener loves literature, and his information about some of his favorite reading is almost as alluring as his explanation of how to handle a manuscript.”—Associated Press “So absorbing you simply will not want [it] to end.”—Charleston News & Courier

A story in 4 parts that lacks the compelling writing of his previous books.

The book was first published in 1991 (he died in 1997 at 90 years of age) although re-issued in 2015. And in some ways he perhaps considered it a summing up of what he learnt as a writer and educator in literature.

We have several passages where the characters discuss the best writers of the age, and the worst, and give their rationales. Indeed, in many sections and chapters, the voice of an erudite author comes across very strongly – it could be considered in fact a teaching tool as again sections discuss good literature elements, good editing practices, and the use of language.

And these are the points that take away from the story. The reader feels they are being lectured to about to read even – the 4th part of the book.

Michener grew up, went to university and even taught, in Pennsylvania and so one must assume that the characters and societies of the Dutch inhabitants were very familiar to him. And in these sections where he writes about the rules of their society – the whole braces/not braces issue, and the arguments between the ‘Plain Dutch’ and the ‘Fancy Dutch, and the discussions of Hex signs, you feel his knowledge of  the subject matter as in his other books such as Hawaii. And these sections were where I felt I was reading Michener the Novelist as opposed to Michener the Lecturer.

Indeed the book is dedicated to the Pennsylvania Dutch students who went to school with him.

So a book that although written in 4 sections is actually a book with two voices. That of the academic lecturing on how to write and edit a good novel and which novelists to emulate, and that of the novelist telling the story of the Pennsylvania Dutch community.

 

 

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