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December 3, 2008

Debbie Macomber on James Michener's TALES OF THE SOUTH PACIFIC

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Bestselling author Debbie Macomber --- whose latest holiday tale is A CEDAR COVE CHRISTMAS --- reveals her lifelong love affair with the works of James Michener, and the Broadway musical that motivated it.

As a young teen, I loved listening to the music from Broadway musicals. Actually, I still do. One musical that stuck a chord with me was South Pacific. I saw the movie and loved every song and every scene. Who can forget Ray Walston parading down the beach wearing a coconut bra and singing, "There Is Nothing Like a Dame?" Not me. Or Mitzi Gaynor singing, "I'm Gonna Wash That Man Right out of My Hair." When John Kerr was killed on that Pacific island, I cried my way through two of my father's big handkerchiefs.

I purchased the record (which goes to tell you how long ago this was!) and played it so often that I nearly wore it out.

For Christmas that year, my parents gave me TALES OF THE SOUTH PACIFIC, by James Michener. I devoured every word. This was his first novel, and it won him a Pulitzer. The top literary prize for his very first novel! If he were anyone else I'd say he hadn't suffered enough before achieving such success, but he deserved the prize for this exceptionally entertaining book.

TALES OF THE SOUTH PACIFIC began my love affair with this incredible author. Early in my marriage, Wayne and I read everything he published. A special book that will remain with both of us is HAWAII.

Shortly before his death, I read his memoir, titled THE WORLD IS MY HOME, and came to appreciate him and his body of work even more. I came away with an immense respect for him as an author and as a man. His life and his work inspire me to this day . . . and to think it all started with a musical I loved and a book my thoughtful parents gave their teenaged daughter for Christmas.

Tomorrow, Bill Willingham remembers his shocking discovery of life beyond comic books, and the classic literary hero responsible for his love of reading.