Author, Winner of Pulitzer Prize for Fiction
James A. Michener, fully James Albert Michener
Author, Winner of Pulitzer Prize for Fiction
A writer can make a fortune in America, but he can't make a living.
I don't know who my parents were. I know nothing about my inheritance. I could be Jewish; I could be part Negro; I could be Irish; I could be Russian. I am spiritually a mix anyway, but I did have a solid childhood fortunately, because of some wonderful women who brought me up. I never had a father or a man in the house, and that was a loss, but you live with that loss.
If you reject the food, ignore the customs, fear the relgion and avoid the people, you might better stay home.
Only another writer, someone who had worked his heart out on a good book which sold three thousand copies, could appreciate the thrill that overcame me one April morning in 1973 when Dean Rivers of our small college in Georgia appeared at my classroom door.
The rules seem to be these: If you have written a successful novel, everyone invites you to write short stories. If you have written some good short stories, everyone wants you to write a novel. But nobody wants anything until you have already proved yourself by being published somewhere else.
About a billion years ago, long before the continents had separated to define the ancient oceans, or their own outlines had been determined, a small protuberance jutted out from the northwest corner of what would later become North America.
I feel myself the inheritor of a great background of people. Just who, precisely, they were, I have never known. I might be part Negro, might be part Jew, part Muslim, part Irish. So I can't afford to be supercilious about any group of people because I may be that people.
I'm not a very good writer, but I'm an excellent rewriter.
Organizations like the church or General Motors promote a man up and up until he reaches a spot which he is obviously incapable of filling, and there they lay him to rest.
The soul is dyed by the color of its leisure hours
All I can do is play the game the way the cards fall.
I had been educated with free scholarships. I went to nine different universities, always at public expense, and when you have that experience, you are almost obligated to give it back. It's as simple as that.
In 1948 I addressed some students at Washington and Lee University, and in the question-answer period one young man observed with asperity, "But it's easy for you to write. You've traveled."
Public libraries have been a mainstay of my life. They represent an individual's right to acquire knowledge; they are the sinews that bind civilized societies the world over. Without libraries, I would be a pauper, intellectually and spiritually.
The supreme excellence is not to win a hundred victories in a hundred battles. The supreme excellence is to subdue the armies of your enemies without even having to fight them.
Although most of us know Vincent van Gogh in Arles and Paul Gauguin in Tahiti as if they were neighbors - somewhat disreputable but endlessly fascinating - none of us can name two French generals or department store owners of that period. I take enormous pride in considering myself an artist, one of the necessaries.
I have never thought of myself as a good writer. Anyone who wants reassurance of that should read one of my first drafts. But I'm one of the world's great rewriters.
In a small Polish farm community, during the fall planting season of 1981, events occurred which electrified the world, sending reverberations of magnitude to capitals as diverse as Washington, Peking and especially Moscow.
Rampaging horsemen can conquer; only the city can civilize.
The will to win, the desire to succeed, the urge to reach your full potential... these are the keys that will unlock the door to personal excellence.
And no invader has ever conquered the heart of Poland, that spirit which is the inheritance of sons and daughters, the private passion of families and the ancient, unbreakable tie to all those who came before.
I have only one bit of advice to beginning writers: be sure your novel is read by Rodgers and Hammerstein.
In later years, it would become fashionable to say of the missionaries, "They came to the islands to do good, and they did right well." Others made jest of the missionary slogan, "They came to a nation in darkness; they left it in light," by pointing out: "Of course they left Hawaii lighter. They stole every goddamned thing that wasn't nailed down."
Russia, France, Germany and China. They revere their writers. America is still a frontier country that almost shudders at the idea of creative expression.
Therefore, men of Polynesia and Boston and China and Mount Fuji and the barrios of the Philippines, do not come to these islands empty-handed, or craven in spirit, or afraid to starve. There is no food here. In these islands there is no certainty. Bring your own food, your own gods, your own flowers and fruits and concepts. For if you come without resources to these islands you will perish... On these harsh terms the islands waited.