JAMES MICHENER'S USA by James A. Michener


The People and the Land
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The American Dream is alive and well in Michener's USA--witness the "new optimism" in New England, the prevalence of "racial cooperation" in the Old South, the one-generation ascent of Mexican-Americans in the Southwest. Why, homeowners are even planting trees, now, in transient L.A.! This is the script for a forthcoming TV series, and nothing but: some spiel about each of the touchstone places Michener visits, plus some interviews with exemplary citizens. In the Northeast, he looks in on a youth-training program in a reclaimed Kenne-bunkport, Me., boatyard; quizzes Boston mayor Kevin White about the Faneuil Hall redevelopment (and, more pregnantly, the city's ethnicity/racism); draws out Columbia, Md., developer James Rouse on the merits of planned communities. In the South, he corrals Atlanta luminaries Coretta Scott King and Andrew Young; the folks behind Savannah's restoration; a contented Miami Cuban emigre; Arkansas' progressive ex-governor Bill Clinton--with intermediate stops at Monticello, Cape Canaveral/Disney World, Cajun country, etc. And so it goes from sea to shining sea. Very few of the interviewees say anything memorable (New York Shakespeare Festival impresario Joe Papp is a rare exception) or even anything of substance (Iowa farmer Bill Judge is a standout here); most simply follow Michener's lead and plug local efforts. (He also, quite patently, feeds them lines.) On occasion, too, he's Michener-the-Writer--telling a Russian Jewish emigre student at Yale (after a mere two years in the US) that Soviet writers "enjoy a higher position than we do" and informing some Iowa undergrads that he wrote "large books like Hawaii and The Source as an antidote to some of the really dreadful television shows." Mostly canned constructiveness and blatant boosterism--but with the pictures here and on TV, it won't displease the multitudes who, understandably, want no truck with talk of "malaise.
Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 1981
Publisher: Crown
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1st, 1981


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