Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Reading Michener Again: The Source

The first book I read by James Michener, Centennial, was passed on to my by my mother in the late seventies, who advised me to keep reading through the first couple of chapters, even though they were only about rocks and then buffalo.  Sure enough, that information was useful later in the novel, which contained so many fascinating characters that I still remember them today.

I went on to read many more of his door-stop-sized books, historical fiction bringing to life some part of the world. I know some people look down their noses at Michener's writing style, so heavily researched, but I feel as if I have visited so many places in the world, as well as so many times in past history because of his books.

Only recently, though, did I turn to one of his earlier books The Source. I was interested especially since the book is set in the part of the world now in such conflict--always in such conflict.  The frame story involves a group of archeologists involved in a dig at Makor, a town not too distant from Jerusalem, and in classic Michener style, the narrative moves back to the earliest inhabitants and brings the story up to modern day, (in this case, the 1960s.)

Having taught the Holocaust course several times at the community college, I was quite familiar with some of the details of "the longest hatred," anti-semitism, but this story brought it home to me in full force.  Anyone who thinks George R. R. Martin is rash in killing off his characters should try a little Michener. (I'm still upset about the young Amish wife, heading west with her husband after their shunning, only to be killed by a rattlesnake.)

In The Source, the horrendous murders, often carried out in the name of religion, are heart-breaking. The senseless killing during the Crusades, often of Christians who unfortunately looked like "infidels" because of their dress just amplify what I knew already from study of history.

I was also fascinated by the prophetic nature of the books, not only concerning the continuing conflicts between Jews and everyone else, but also the suggestion that China would eventually become a major power, affecting the rest of the world.

Reading The Source has literally taken me all summer. I started reading the paperback copy that had been waiting for years on my shelf. Unfortunately, the print was far too small, so I downloaded the eBook. I'm used to looking at the bottom of the screen and seeing "Seven more pages until the end of the chapter." In this case, it was more likely to say, "Seventy-two more pages...," so I would read to the end of a chapter--a convenient stopping place, pick up another book for awhile, and then return. Even though it's been a slow process, I'm glad I've made my way through this particular account, shedding light on the events behind continuing world conflict.

I'm ready now, though, for a little light reading.

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