cover image World Is My Home: A Memoir

World Is My Home: A Memoir

James A. Michener. Random House Inc, $25 (519pp) ISBN 978-0-679-40134-6

Michener, a writer who has enjoyed enormous popular esteem, remains an elusive personality; and his memoir, though frank and open on the surface, brings us no closer to him. The book is considerably entertaining, for his storytelling skills are ever at work, from his wartime years as a young officer in the South Pacific to his service on various Washington committees, his world travels and his life as a successful writer. But it strikes one as unlikely that the reticent, unfussy, modest man he is at pains to portray could have mustered the determination and stamina to create the remarkable career he has enjoyed. Michener likes to see himself as Mr. Average, suggesting perhaps that anyone could have done what he has with what he acknowledges are only moderate gifts. But his accounts of his love of opera, painting and literature, and of the effort he made to educate himself in those arts, show him to be infinitely beyond the ordinary. His rigid standards of fiscal probity and his disdain for the limelight are also virtually unique among living authors, as is the generosity with which he has disposed of his considerable fortune to aid writers less well endowed. This is a frustrating book, then, because one wishes to know Michener better than he seems to know himself; but it will probably delight his many fans, even if it misleads them. Photos not seen by PW . (Jan.)