James A. Michener was an American phenomenon, but his interests were global and his writings are universal in scope. The very first extensive listing of works by and about JAM was compiled by F.X. Roberts and C.D. Rhine, both Professors of Library Science at the University of Northern Colorado (where Michener had once taught), and published in 1995. Their checklist/bibliography* of works by and about James A. Michener attempted to reflect this universality by listing all of Michener’s major as well as many of his minor writings, and by providing an extensive annotated selection of writings about James Michener which have appeared in books and periodicals from the 1920’s to the present. Although filling 125 pages, it was by no means exhaustive, nor did it pretend to be. It was a beginning, and the authors intended a solid foundation upon which others might build. They succeeded.
* Roberts, F.X. and Rhine, C.D. James A. Michener: A Checklist of His Works, with a Selected, Annotated Bibliography. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1995.
If a writer is prolific enough, he produces one more book than he may realize - his bibliography. Someone else will compile it, of course, but a descriptive listing of a writer's life work can be book length. James Michener's bibliography, for instance, fills a book of 336 pages, about the size of an average novel (but not one of Michener's average novels). Compiled by David A. Groseclose, ''James A. Michener: A Bibliography,'' has been published by State House Press**.
Michener's career as a successful writer had its start with four short sentences, the beginning of his Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, ''Tales of the South Pacific'':
''I wish I could tell you about the South Pacific. The way it actually was. The endless ocean. The infinite specks of coral we called islands.''
The book beginning with those sentences was published in 1948. While not having quite as famous an opening as ''Call me Ishmael,'' Michener's first novel was the beginning of a whale-size body of work. In the nearly half-century since then, Michener has gone on to write hundreds of other beginnings, followed by uncounted hundreds of thousands of other sentences.
While his total words and sentences remain uncounted, coming up with the number of Michener titles has proven a bit easier, though definitely a major project.
The numbers: 69 books, 23 of them novels, from ''Tales of the South Pacific'' to his last work, a collection of sonnets. In addition to the books, Michener's bibliography includes 135 contributions to anthologies, collections and books; 78 forewords, introductions and miscellaneous pieces of commentary; 271 magazine articles; and 127 newspaper articles. In all, 680 works - roughly one piece a month.
Of this impressive ouevre, which began when the author was in his 40s, two books deal with Michener's adopted home state of Texas: the 1096-page novel ''Texas'' (published in 1985 and subsequently translated in 10 different languages) and ''The Eagle and the Raven,'' published in 1990. Michener also has done five forewords for various Texas-related books and three magazine articles dealing with some aspect of Texas.
The bibliography also includes books about or related to Michener, audio and video materials by or about Michener, magazine and newspaper articles about Michener and major reviews of Michener's work.
Under ''Michener Miscellany'' are noted a coffee cup and T-shirt bearing the author's likeness. In all, there are more than 2,500 entries in this annotative bibliography, the work of a Phoenix lawyer who is a dedicated
Even a casual perusal of this bibliography shows that little has escaped Michener's attention during his long literary career. He has written about everything from Texas to Japanese art, from the space program to sports,
from politics to the art of writing.
Groseclose's bibliography is an outstanding work of scholarship, a valuable reference for collectors, researchers, librarians, Michener fans - anyone with an appreciation for belles lettres.
Though this bibliography only lists 78 forewords, introductions and pieces of miscellaneous commentary by Michener, he actually has done over 100. He also wrote the foreword to this book. And in it, Michener offers a short anecdote about, as he puts it, ''the vagaries of the written word.''
When he was 9 or 10 years old, while at a swimming hole in ''a trivial streamlet near our town'' (in Pennsylvania), he saw that one of his friends apparently was having trouble. Believing he was in danger of drowning, the future novelist swam out and helped the boy to shore. Someone witnessed this act of bravery and the story made the local paper the next day: ''Local Lad a Hero. Saves His Companion.''
A couple of days later, the youngster Michener believed he had saved from drowning came and punched him in the nose.
''Saved my life? You nearly drowned me. Got in my way as I was making it to shore,'' the boy said to Michener.
That was the end of a friendship, and as Michener wrote, ''I was left to ruminate, at that early age, on the vagaries of the printed word, a mystery which still perplexes me.''
While Michener continued at 90 to ponder this mystery, millions of readers are left to their own ruminations on the millions of printed words produced by this remarkable writer who decided to spend his final years in Texas.
Mike Cox, former Lubbock, TX, Avalanche-Journal reporter
** Groseclose, David A. James A. Michener: A Bibliography. Austin, TX: State House Press, 1996.
N.B. - A limited number of copies of this First Edition are still available directly from the author, a charter member of the Society.
To order a personalized, signed
postage included, send a check for $25 to: Karen Groseclose, 2927
East Shangri La Road,
Two or more @ $20 each. (One to read, one to track your collection…as we do.)