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James Michener
Thomas
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Mar 15, 2005
Posts: 371
From: Lake Mojave
Posted: 2006-05-02 02:06 am   Permalink

Michener is definitely a towering figure in general, and also specifically in terms his role in "mid-century Polynesian pop." Both the book and movie, "Hawaii" meant a lot to me. I think it merits noting here that a second film, "The Hawaiians," starring Charlton Heston, was made in 1970; it can be viewed as a kind of sequel to "Hawaii" as it follows the next generations and is also derived from Michener's book. Those of us into "late-century Hawaiian pop" will also enjoy seeing many familiar faces, e.g. from Hawaii Five-O and the like, in it. Making a "double feature" of these two films does occur as an idea.

What I really want to do here though is suggest a look at Michener's memoir, "The World is My Home: A Memoir" (1992). I won't go into it much here; suffice it to say that Michener had a truly extraordinary perspective on the Pacific island people at that epochal time in history, and as we know he made great use of it. Basically he went everywhere on the government's dime and chronicled what he saw -- not as an artistic endeavor in his spare time, but because that was his job. In this very straightforward recollection, he shares some unforgettable impressions and anecdotes of that time.

I noticed (and agree with) the positive comments by others about his books dealing with Hawaii and Polynesia, so felt a need to point this one out too. If you're into it, check it out, I don't think you'll be disappointed. Note, though, that it is not all about the Pacific, it is a comprehensive memoir of his remarkable life. Those not interested in the broader story might just want to read the first part and skim over the rest.

Let me take the liberty here of sharing a passage from his memoir; he was still new to the area and had just touched down in British Samoa:
**
The next hour was one of the most wonderful of my life, for as we headed eastward on a coral-topped road as smooth as Navy engineers could make it with their huge scrapers, we had on our left that flawless beach with small white-sand coves appearing here and there, lined by the tallest palm trees I had ever seen. There was no monotony to the road, for we were in the hour before sunset, and a golden light suffused everything, edging the palms with iridescent fronds against the deep blue sky. Even the waves that reached the shore not twenty feet from us as we drove seemed kindly, with no hint of the way storms could lash them into a fury.

But even if nature had not conspired to make the shoreline incomparably lovely, views inland would have made this journey to Apia unforgettable, because perched in the midst of huge coconut plantations stood tiny villages, or more typically, collections of two or three of the most exquisite human habitations I had ever seen. On moderately high stone platforms generous in size and built of coral rock perfectly fitted to produce a firm level foundation, stood the famous Samoan fales whose name was so reminiscent of the character of Polynesian life. Fale in Samoa, hale in Hawaii, whare in New Zealand, the word is always the same and pronounced pretty much the same ... But if a Samoan fale is beautiful to hear pronounced -- fah-lay -- it is even more so to the eye, because it is roofed by palm fronds woven into exquisite patterns and supported by seven or eight huge upright coconut trunks that show golden when the sun strikes them. The fale is thus a kind of huge altar set upon a handsome platform, and its salient characteristic is that is has no walls; the upright coconut trunks stand like pillars or a committee of ancient gods convened to oversee the behavior of the mortals who occupy that platform.

Privacy is obtained at night by pulling chords that drop wide curtains made from woven fibers taken from the coconut palms, and when one sees those curtains fall gracefully at night, one has the feeling that peace and benediction have descended upon that house. An unbroken chain of Samoan fales at dusk, strung out under the palms and not concentrated in villages, is a sight of humanity at its aesthetic best and a warming reassurance that not all humans are either ugly or stupid, for the ancient people who devised that pattern of living were artists of the highest order.

But I am not being completely accurate. What really made the first drive along the Samoan lagoons so unforgettable was not the domestic architecture on the right but the human spectacle on the left. As night approached, men and women from the fales came down to bathe and, throwing off their sarongs, waded out into the soft white breakers to splash themselves with water and frolic aimlessly in the ocean for a while before settling down for the night...
**

[ This Message was edited by: Thomas 2006-05-02 02:58 ]


 
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