Re-reading a Classic

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A couple of weeks ago Peg and I watched the movie South Pacific. I have seen it four times since it was made, and I love it more each time. I love it so much I decided to re-read the book it is based on “The Tales Of the South Pacific” by James Michener. I often tell this story about how I learned about Michener. A Polish engineer from work told me he had just read a great book about the history of his country. Since my wife was of Polish descent I borrowed the book. Most James Michener books are a thousand pages and Poland was a long thick thousand page book. I began the read on a holiday weekend and was mesmerized. I could not put it down, it had my interest. At the five hundred page mark I set the book down on the end table next to my chair, and there it sat for the next twelve months. By that time I was concerned that I had the book for a year and I should return it, so I picked it up again. The same thing, I read non-stop to the end. I enjoyed the book that much. I learned of other Michener narratives and set a goal to read all of them. After the third one, I asked myself where did this guy begin, what was his first book? I found a list of his published books and learned that Tales of the South Pacific was his first and he won a Pulitzer prize for that work.

I borrowed the book from the library and was surprised to see that is was of normal length. It was obvious to me why he won the prize. Published in l947, it was fresh off WWII, and it is a story about his personal experience in the Pacific. After reading it I non-stop I was moved emotionally. Many years later when I watched the movie of the broadway musical South Pacific it seemed very familiar to me. The play is based on the book.

I haven’t finished re-reading yet, but I am already emotionally involved. Hearing the stories of the hardships these men endured while protecting our country has evoked some memories I would rather forget. I was nine years old when this story published, and I lived the war from FDR’s declaration until the boys came home. I still remember hearing stories my Mom told about the sons of friends who returned and were all screwed up. They left for war as teenagers but returned as hardened men who were quite different.

Michener did an outstanding job of telling a series of totally independent short stories that were filled with characters in a a way as to tell a much bigger story.  I still give this book four stars, and I highly recommend it to everyone.

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