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The Novel Mass Market Paperback – July 20, 1992

3.8 out of 5 stars 35 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


“Michener explores some of the deepest issues raised by narrative literature.”The New York Times
“A good, old-fashioned, sink-your-teeth-into-it story . . . The Novel lets us see an unfamiliar side of the author, at the same time portraying the delicate, complex relationship among editors, agents and writers.”The Philadelphia Inquirer
“Michener loves literature, and his information about some of his favorite reading is almost as alluring as his explanation of how to handle a manuscript.”—Associated Press
“So absorbing you simply will not want [it] to end.”—Charleston News & Courier

From the Inside Flap

"A good, old-fashioned, sink-your-teeth-into-it story...Suspenseful."
James Michener turns the creation and publication of a novel into an extroardinary and exciting experience as he renders believable the intriguing personalities who are the parents to its birth: a writer, editor, critic, and reader are locked in the desperate scenario of life, death, love, and truth. As immediate as today's headlines, as close as the bookshelves, THE NOVEL is a fascinating look into the glamorous world of the writer.
Selected by the Book-of-the-Month Club

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Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Fawcett (July 20, 1992)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0449221431
  • ISBN-13: 978-0449221433
  • Product Dimensions: 4.2 x 0.9 x 6.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.5 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (35 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #860,726 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By David A. Bede on June 29, 2004
"The Novel" is one of Michener's last works, and it must also be one of his shortest. Far less ambitious than most of his signature historical novels, it tells a story closer to home for him - both literally and figuratively. It centers on the two worlds he probably knew best: the Pennsylvania Dutch Country and the publishing industry.
The subject at hand is, ostensibly, an aging novelist and questions about the likely success of his anticipated new book. But Michener really just uses the story as a backdrop for four autobiographical sketches of the author and three people who figure in his life and career. Most of the story is not as suspenseful as some of the review quotes would have you believe, but the stories of the four characters and how they found themselves in their current situations are immediately engaging, tension or no tension. If nothing else, I definitely wanted to find out how they ended up.
Along the way, Michener throws in what I'm sure are several knowing jokes about the literary world in all its snobbery, notably a lengthy battle between two characters over the merits of Longfellow and a wonderfully awful "experimental" novel which the critics, predictably enough, love. If Michener himself weren't so highly regarded throughout his career, I would suspect him of intending many of the dialogue exchanges as digs at his critics. As it is, perhaps he meant comments like "there are novels critics like, and novels readers love" as a more generalzied swipe at the establishment he was so familiar with. The good news for us, of course, is that Michener was both. This is another great sample of his talent.
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After having seen James Michener's thick books with single-word titles in my local library for years, I thought it was about time that I acquainted myself with this author. I'm not sure why I picked this book among the dozen or so that were on the shelf, and in hindsight I'm sure it wasn't his best work. Frankly, it was a rather strange book in many respects. Although I'm not altogether disappointed in the book, I doubt it is highly representative of Michener's work in general. This book struck me as an anomaly, even though I haven't read anything else by him to compare it against. Frankly, if all his books read this way, I doubt seriously he would have garnered much popular appeal.

In "The Novel," Michener gives us a fictitious novelist by the name of Marcus Yoder who is in the process of publishing his eighth and final novel after honing his craft over the better part of his lifetime. Yoder recounts in first person narrative format his slow and often uncertain rise from obscurity to worldwide fame writing novels about his own people, the Pennsylvania Dutch. Parts 2, 3, and 4 of the book provide a similar perspective of Yoder's work and career, but as told in their own words by his editor, a critic, and one of his readers, respectively. Michener also links the four main characters to one another through personal relationships, not just Yoder's novels. It all makes for an interesting read, but certainly nothing I could characterize as "riveting."

I don't know if Michener's over-arching purpose was to provide aspiring writers with an inside look at the publishing industry, but that's certainly part of what is imparted here.
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The publishing world as it was a few short years ago appears at center stage in this book, not - as its title might indicate - the creative process that results in a work of fiction. Kinetic Press, a fictitious New York publishing house, can easily be considered the book's main character.

Lukas Yoder, whose voice carries the first of four segments (there are no chapter divisions), has finally produced a best seller after dismal numbers for his first four books have nearly caused Kinetic to refuse him further publication. His editor's insistence that if Yoder goes, so does she, is all that's given him the chance to see Book #5 in print. But that book's a runaway. Now Yoder is finishing the manuscript of Book #6, which he declares must be his last. He's past 60, and Emma - the beloved wife who supported him, both financially and emotionally, though all the years when his writing went nowhere - welcomes this announcement. She can't stand another "seige," as she puts it.

THE NOVEL's second segment belongs to Yvonne Marmelle, Yoder's editor. Born to a "genteel poor" Jewish family tied to New York City's garment district, she enters the publishing industry out of genuine love for books and works her way from beginning go-fer to senior editor with Lukas Yoder's first novel as her debut assignment.

Karl Strieber, professor at the local college that graduated Yoder, aspires to become a respected critic. Like so many other literary scholars, he also hungers to publish his own novel. In the book's third segment, Strieber's voice carries the reader through his experiences and entwines his life with the lives of his neighbor Lukas Yoder and their shared editor, Yvonne Marmelle.
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