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The Novel

3.64 of 5 stars 3.64  ·  rating details  ·  1,475 ratings  ·  139 reviews
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 obsesse ...more
Paperback, 448 pages
Published July 20th 1992 by Fawcett (first published 1991)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 2,757)
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Chance Maree

THE NOVEL has 4 parts: The Writer, The Editor, The Critic, and The Reader. Loosely, it follows the development of what may be the final novel of an esteemed and popular writer who rose through a traditional publishing career.

In the first 2 sections, we follow a novel from a professional, workhorse of a writer, to the hands of the writer's long-time editor. These sections were interesting to me, for Michener addresses issues of the publishing industry such as conglomerate takeovers to the care/f
...more
Elaine
Somewhere around the page 200 mark, The Novel goes from being mildly entertaining to being downright unpalatable. I'd like to think it's because booger-brained critic Striebert was introduced, but even after skipping through his section, which consisted of Michener masturbating over literature, I still wanted to hurl the book across the room. The only character I found interesting or had any sympathy for at all was the Mennonite oaf, Applebutter. I was hoping Michener would write a spin-off seri ...more
Jim
I don't often go for Michener novels because who has that kind of time? But "The Novel" is a great page-turner of a read. Written in four parts (a la The Sound and the Fury), this inside look at the world of publishing, wrapped around a murder mystery, delivers a lot in only 435 pages.

Of particular interest was the section written by "the critic". His chart of 'The Doomed House of Atreus' and his comments about Erich Auerbach are pretty much spot on and have spurred me on to deepening my reading
...more
Apryl Anderson
It’s been a long time since I’ve read anything written by an artist. Most everything has been ‘classic’, in other words, outdated bestsellers. In contrast, this was a book by a very hardworking and gifted author.
It was fascinating to read the points-of-view of four different, but interrelated characters. Different in occupation, socio-economic cultural upbringing, experience; but the same in regards to setting and a relationship with a particular author. To go deeper into the author’s purpose i
...more
Tpmac21
I didn't appreciate this book until reaching the critics section. This is where Michener's genius in characterization comes through as we see him legitimately address problems that his own critics have heaped upon his work. (Namely that he is long winded and overly descriptive).

Michener does not use the critic character to take his revenge, but instead critiques his own writing style very adroitly. I believe that this stands as a work of an aging author to place his past body of work in its pro
...more
Cojaysea
I can't imagine anyone who loves to read , who is interested or wished they could have been a writer and wants to know what the process of writing takes from its first thought right through to its publishing not liking this book. i was a huge fan of Michener back in the 70,s and starting with THE DRIFTERS ( one of my all time favorite novels) i read probably 8 of his books. i haven't read anything by him for years and decided to read one of his later works, this book being the last one he wrote ...more
Laura
Interesting insights into the publishing industry but I couldn't get past the first 200 pages. The narrative got so boring I had to give up.
Rita
MICHENER
The Novel

c 1991, and also set in 1991
[he died in 1997]

Glad I read it, learned plenty about the book trade, about the work of editors, agents, and literary criticism. All interesting. And he's a good storyteller.

Would certainly not bother to read the book a second time.
Some of the criticism directed towards The Author in this book must be similar to criticism of Michener’s own fiction.

I agree with that criticism that his books are quite sentimental. For instance, except for one minor cha
...more
Sydney Avey
How interesting to be immersed in James A. Michener’s The Novel, published in 1991, and also happen onto a review of James Seaton’s Literary Criticism from Plato to Postmodernism published in the Wall Street Journal July 21, 2014. Both tackle similar issues in different contexts and arrive at surprisingly similar conclusions. Michener takes on academia and publishing in the context of a good story. “Fiction is growth,” the academic tells the budding editor. In the end, the author has convinced h ...more
Pamela Trawick
Debated about rating it higher. Good coverage of books, publishing, and who decides what's a good book. Why should "they" get to decide what everyone else should think is good? That always bugged me as an English major. This book makes you think it through for yourself and decide your criteria and whether or not you're going to be bullied into conforming.
Cynthia
Sentimental and at times sappy, suitable for maiden aunts who blanch at bad language. This was written late in Michener's life (1991) and some of it feels very dated, particularly the discussion of possible HIV/AIDS transmission from a shaving razor. Also at one point a woman gives up on ever being able to operate her VCR. Hmm.

The book is divided into four parts: The Writer, The Editor, The Critic and The Reader. The Editor, Yvonne Marmelle, aka Shirley, describes falling in love with books as a
...more
Wendy
This is his best novel by far! He does a great study and description of each viewpoint in the literary world: novelist, publisher, critic, reader. And he saves the best for last. I'll buy this one and use it as reference for "The Great Books" of modern history as he casts their seeded names across each section. This fit well with the Hemingway reading I was doing because of the Critic's connection to Ira Pound, the 1930s poet-mentor of so many famous artists. He is important because he committed ...more
Katie
This is the first Michener I've read -- a solid story of the publishing industry from four different perspectives. It kept my attention, and was a decent summer read.
Claudia Mundell
I used to read every Michener I could get my hands on. Somehow I missed this one. While it wasn't my favorite, it was full of Michener style. He wrote in the 90's about a fictional piece author writing and publishing a novel. It was the time novels were changing and the German publishers were beginning to take over the big publishing houses of New York. Of course, now we can read this book as history...nothing in publishing is the same now as 20 years ago. Since I have been dissatisfied with man ...more
Leslie Wilkins
Oct 07, 2012 Leslie Wilkins marked it as to-read
One of the books Cheryl Strayed deemed important enough to carry on the PCT.
Miriam Garcia
One of these days I'm going to find time to actually write a real review.

This was a pretty okay novel. I think it missed making a point since there was so much extensive waffling between the "art is supposed to be progressive" and "art is supposed to be populist" stances. I understand that both views are correct, and I agree, but as far as presentation went, the verdict seemed to swing from one side to the other. There's really not much page-time devoted to a scenario where a work is progressive
...more
blmagm
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
aPriL eVoLvEs (ex-Groot)
I've read many Michener novels and I enjoy them, but he always has the tone of a strict maiden aunt who insists that one sits up straight and eats all of one's vegetables, but does not think it too unseemly if you decide to have a couple of jiggers of whiskey following the meal. This one is much the same.

Unusual for Michener, he pulls off writing in several voices, assuming the supposed reactions of four characters: The Writer, The Editor, The Critic and the Reader. The Reader section is the onl
...more
Hank
I’ve read a few books by James Michener and on each one of them I’ve started out thinking “how in the world could this boring title/ topic be interesting”, only to find his book quickly gains a grip on me that will not let go.

Novel is a book about writing a novel; in this case a contrast between a well appreciated old style author and several pioneers in varying avant-garde styles. A book about writing a book sounds so bland, yet Michener’s quality writing propels the reader forward, ironically
...more
Jim Leckband
This is the first book I've read by Michener, but I definitely had an idea of what his stuff was like. I grew up in his heyday and the literary landscape was strewn with his massive book boulders. Knowing his usual types of books, I chose this book because it wasn't going to be a novel tied to a place (Tales of the South Pacific, Chesapeake, Poland) or a historical event (Centennial, The Bridges at Toko-ri).

"The Novel" is probably Michener's most personal since it involves the profession for whi
...more
Neil S Friedman
I found this paperback at a used book sale at a local library. When I read the blurb I was intrigued by its premise — the story of how a book gets written, published, critiqued and read with each chapter devoted to that idea.
The book was not only one of best-selling author James Michener’s last novels, written about five years before his death, but perhaps his shortest. Known for his epic stories of people and places, this one is not as extensive and doesn’t quite meet that criterion with its c
...more
Troy
I picked this title because I had been meaning to read a Michener novel for many years and it happened to be on Cheryl Strayed's reading list from Wild, which I was using to narrow the choices for my next read. I actually made The Novel part of a little class I created for myself. I included other, nonfiction books about reading and writing and why people bother with them.

This was an unusual novel from the very beginning. It was published in 1992, but it read like it was written in the sixties,
...more
Patricia Johnson
Four novellas - The Writer; The Editor; The Critic and the Reader

The Writer - I give this two Stars ... The writer, a Pennsylvania Dutch, writes about the German settlers (Amish & Mennonites). He pens several novels on this subject but it takes an editor that believes in his skills as a writer to encourage him to continue writing after several failures.

The Editor - I give this two Stars ... follows a young woman with little education into the publishing business. She becomes a first rate ed
...more
L.
Aug 14, 2007 L. rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: thinkers
Shelves: solid
The brilliance of this book is the subtlety of the writing. He does the story from the viewpoints of four different characters and he writes in exactly the style appropriate for the given character. The pop fiction writer is inane and a little boring. I'm sure this puts most readers off, because it's the first section; it drove me nuts. You don't realize that it's intentional until you get to the other parts. The editor's part is written in a clear, direct and somewhat terse manner. The critic h ...more
Adam
Mar 17, 2008 Adam rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Ben Marcus
Recommended to Adam by: my mom and dad
Shelves: americanfiction
Initial thoughts as I started the book:

Really great, fun. This novel is broken into four sections: the lives of the novelist Lukas Yoder, his editor, a critic, and a reader. It's always good to read a book about writing and publishing, just for the sake of rethinking my own habits and the the aspects of the trade that I think are most important.

Having finished, I'm a little disappointed in how didactic the book became, sort of Ayn Randian in its argumentative structure -- setting up one camp aga
...more
Jolene
Confession time... this was my first James Michener book. I learned of it while reading 'WILD' by Cheryl Strayed. It was even more intriguing when I read the New York Time and Los Angeles Times reviews of this book when it was published. It was not considered a literary find - actually they said the dialogue was quite disappointing. While I will agree there were parts of the books that I didn't feel were up to the caliber that I would expect from an award winning writer, I am glad he wrote it an ...more
Drew
I'd never read a Michener book (each of them so thick, so daunting) until now, at the suggestion of Cheryl Strayed who noted in her memoir, "Wild" that she carried this book all along the Pacific Coast Trail. That's high praise.

This novel is an inside-the-industry book — a quick, engaging story offering points of view from The Writer, The Editor, The Critic, The Reader.

And it's not 1000 pages.
Ann
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Rena Sherwood
I used to have a first edition of this. I wish I still had it. Despite the rather undescriptive title, this is a great novel set in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. It also has a few bits and pieces from Michener's own life. Also has some experimental bits that are quite different from what Michener readers are used to.
Darlene
Perhaps only an English major and avid book lover would be absorbed by this novel, which crafts the lives of a writer, his editor, his critic and his reader. It is informative about the book publishing industry as it operated 25 years ago, before behemoth retailer Amazon muscled into the digital publishing arena.
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7995
James Albert Michener is best known for his sweeping multi-generation historical fiction sagas, usually focusing on and titled after a particular geographical region. His first novel, Tales of the South Pacific , which inspired the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical South Pacific, won the 1948 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.

Toward the end of his life, he created the Journey Prize, awarded annually for th
...more
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