Adam's Reviews > The Novel

The Novel by James A. Michener
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's review
Mar 17, 2008

liked it
bookshelves: americanfiction
Recommended to Adam by: my mom and dad
Recommended for: Ben Marcus
Read in January, 2008

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 against experimental writing and another, slightly more daffy and self-involved camp who expounded the genre's virtue, and through their faults suggested the superiority of traditional storytelling -- though Michener (1) wrote with a complex (albeit imprecise) understanding of experimentalism, and (2) treated both camps with humanity. My favorite sections were the ones that recounted incidents that happened in previous sections, each time from the point of view of the new narrator. This in itself comes out of an important experimental tenet: the primacy of individualism and subjective dialogue in determining the actuality of an event. To put it in terms of the story, the way we understand the circumstances of Yoder's publication is clearly outlined by Yoder in his own section, but when it's told in details specific to his editor's experience, our understanding is enriched. In Michener's pen this technique doesn't bear itself out with the experimental trimmings, of course, but it seems he worked this way intentionally. At one point in the final section Yoder determines to start a work in the new style (but, he capitulates, one that is built around a compelling story), and it seems Michener set out with the same goal.

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