“[A]nd then he gaped, for coming down the stairs and into the room was Jerusha Bromley, twenty-two years old, slim, dark-eyed, dark-haired, perfect in feature and with gently dancing curls which framed her face, three on each side. She was exquisite in a frail starched dress of pink and white sprigged muslin, marked by a row of large pearl buttons, not flat as one found them in cheaper stores, but beautifully rounded on top and iridescent. They dropped in an unbroken line from her cameoed throat, over her striking bosom, down to her tiny waist and all the way to the hem of her dress, where three spaced bands of white bobbin lace completed the decoration. Abner, looking at her for the first time, choked. ‘She cannot be the sister they thought of for me,’ he thought. ‘She is so very lovely.’”
                                                               - James A Michener, Hawaii (172-73)


Michener, James A. Hawaii. New York: bantam, 1966.

© 2017, Brett Farmer. All Rights Reserved

Opalescent Morning
Charles Rosen - Date unknown
James A. Michener Art Museum (United States)
Painting - oil on canvas
Height: 32 cm (12.6 in.), Width: 40 cm (15.75 in.)


No sooner do anniversary celebrations for Torn Curtain close, then it’s time to mark another golden milestone here in the Parallel Julieverse: the 50th Anniversary of Hawaii. The spectacular 1966 historical drama based on James A. Michener’s bestselling novel and starring Julie Andrews, Max von Sydow and Richard Harris, opened fifty years ago almost to the day depending where and when you read this. As befitting an epic film of monumental proportions, Hawaii had not one but two star-studded premieres: a World Premiere at New York’s DeMille Theatre on October 10 1966, followed two days later by a West Coast Premiere on October 12 at the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood.

The road to those premieres was long and ofttimes bumpy. Hawaii “was a very troubled picture in its production,” remarks executive producer Walter Mirisch by way of a diplomatic understatement (Balio, 181). Plans to turn Michener’s sweeping history of the Hawaiian Islands into a film started as early as 1958 before the book was even published. On the back of Michener’s track record of hit novel to film transfers (The Bridges at Toko-Ri, Sayonara, South Pacific), the William Morris Agency shopped Hawaii to various Hollywood studios as a pre-publication deal (May, 147). Bidding was fierce but the rights were ultimately secured by the Mirisch Corporation in conjunction with longtime partner United Artists for the then-record price of $600,000 plus 10% of the gross (Mirisch, 116; Balio, 181).

Producers Harold and Walter Mirisch sensed Hawaii had all the ingredients of a smash “film spectacle on a par with Gone with the Wind” (218). However, they faced a major challenge in condensing Michener’s sprawling 1000-page chronicle, which covered centuries of time and scores of central characters, into a workable film property. To take on the Herculean task, the Mirisches appointed seasoned producer-director Fred Zinnemann. Zinnemann had considerable experience with big canvas sagas set in ‘exotic’ locations – The Nun’s Story (1959), The Sundowners  (1960) – and even had a previous Hawaiian-based hit under his belt with From Here to Eternity (1953). 

Zinnemann in turn contracted fellow From Here to Eternity alumnus, screenwriter Daniel Taradash to tackle the script. Taradash toiled for almost two years trying to draft a successful film treatment that brought together all the multiple narrative strands of the novel. After several false starts, he thought he had found a unifying theme – “all men are brothers” – but informed the production team it could only feasibly be done in two 3-4 hour films not one (McGilligan, 324-25; Ceplair and Trumbo, 69).* Initially, United Artists, the financier of the project, were amenable to the novel idea of staging Hawaii as a two picture presentation that would be screened sequentially or consecutively in side-by-side cinemas with a split ticketing arrangement – a kind of ultimate roadshow event – and they allocated $10 million to the project. But, as time wore on, they progressively got cold feet and pressured Taradash to write a single feature script as fall-back security (Hanson, 175). Exit Daniel Taradash, enter Dalton Trumbo.

Today, Trumbo is best remembered as one of the fabled ‘Hollywood Ten,’ whose principled stand against post-war McCarthyism resulted in industry blacklist (Dick, 1989). But Trumbo was, first and foremost, a gifted screenwriter with a knack for shaping unwieldy material into cogent screen narratives, typically with a powerful vision and social message (Hanson, 2001; Ceplair and Trumbo, 2014). He came to Hawaii on the back of two very successful epic adaptations, Exodus (1960) and Spartacus (1960), and was allegedly enthused by the Michener’s novel’s themes of anti-racism and anti-colonialism as they resonated deeply with his own personal politics. So enthused, in fact, that he wrote four preliminary draft scripts in short order – two longer versions for the potential two-picture deal which was still tentatively on the table and two shorter versions for single standalone films – which he delivered to the producers in March 1963 (Ceplair and Trumbo, 269).

Meanwhile, as Trumbo continued to write, pre-production plans for the film puttered along. There were discussions about possible star casting. Zinnemann’s preference throughout was for a screen pairing of Audrey Hepburn and Alec Guinness (Archerd, 2), and there was also talk of Rock Hudson (Callan,195; Mirisch, 234). However, the early-60s saw a number of star-driven epics tank dismally at the box office including Mutiny on the Bounty (1962) and Cleopatra (1963). Spooked by the sudden market downturn, United Artists reined in plans for Hawaii. They insisted it be done as a single feature and with a maximum budget of $6 million. Exit Fred Zinnemann (“Zinnemann Exits,” 1).

With the loss of Zinnemann in February 1964, Hawaii went into production limbo. Walter Mirisch, now flying solo as executive producer due to his brother’s ill health, thought the project could still be salvaged but only if they could find the right director to do it for the right price (Mirisch, 235). Several candidates were floated as options before George Roy Hill was appointed as replacement director in April 1964 (”Hill Signed,” 1). Hill was a surprise choice. His principal background had been in theatre and television and, though he had helmed a couple of well-received features, including Toys in the Attic (1962) for the Mirisches, there was nothing in his resume to suggest him as the director of a big-budget historical spectacle. Still, what he may have lacked in experience, Hill more than compensated with unbridled enthusiasm and a fresh perspective on the material. Moreoever, he was amenable to “the budgetary constraints…imposed by United Artists and agree[d] to do whatever was necessary to meet them” (Mirisch, 236).

Hill also brought important suggestions of his own for how to further compress the Michener source material. His most significant innovation was to drastically reduce the scope of the film from the vast panaroma of Zinnemann’s vision to a more contained treatment focused on the middle section of the novel alone dealing with the arrival of the Congregationalist missionaries and the subsequent generation of Chinese merchants with “a tale spun of the personal lives of those involved” (“Cut Down ‘Hawaii’,” 3 ). The issues of culture clash and the destructive dangers of cultural chauvinism inherent in this section of the Michener saga would not only give the film a strong unifying theme story, he reasoned, but also chime metaphorically with contemporary political issues surrounding US military involvement in Vietnam. Hill found a ready accomplice in screenwriter Dalton Trumbo. “I’m not a political creature, really,” Hill remarked, “specially compared to Dalton, but we agree on Vietnam” (Horton, 56). Together the two formed a firm friendship and worked together, frequently side-by-side, revising and honing the script (Ceplair and Trumbo, 270ff).

Hill’s hands-on, innovative approach to Hawaii also extended to casting. Determined to avoid the cliches – and budget-draining fees – of traditional star casting, Hill’s idea was to use lesser known actors in order to give the film a sense of freshness and added realism (Dougherty and Roussel, 330ff). “Emphasis of the film will be on the property’s name and not on the cast,” Hill told Variety in October 1964, and “could even end up without a major star in the cast because of this” (“Cut Down ‘Hawaii’,” 3). In concert with his talented casting director and personal friend, Marion Dougherty, who would become something of a Hollywood legend in her field, Hill set about assembling a carefully handpicked troupe of screen talent (Dougherty and Roussel, 74-113) .

Some concession was made to box office appeal with the casting of the three leads but even they were relative Hollywood newcomers (West, 30). Julie Andrews, fresh from the success of her screen debut Mary Poppins, was the first of the principals to be signed in December 1964 for the role of Jerusha Bromley, the virtuous New England woman who follows her missionary husband to Hawaii.** She was followed by the Swedish actor, Max von Sydow, signed in February 1965 for the lead role of Rev. Abner Hale, the stiff-necked Calvinist minister, and, finally, Richard Harris, confirmed in March for the part of Jerusha’s seafaring former lover, Rafer Hoxworth (Mirisch, 222-23). It’s arguably a testament to the production team’s canny casting choices that they managed to secure a trio of lead stars whose marquee ‘name’ value would only rise – and, in Julie’s case, exponentially – during the film’s production.

The same eye for nascent talent was evident in the casting of the film’s support players, several of whom, including Gene Hackman, John Cullum and Carroll O’Connor, would also go on to much greater fame in subsequent years (Dougherty, 88-89). There is even a brief uncredited appearance in the film by a young Bette Midler (though more on that story in another post). But perhaps the greatest casting coup achieved by Hill and Dougherty was their insistence on using actual Polynesian actors and extras for all the ‘native’ Hawaiian roles, rather than the standard Hollywood practice of indiscriminately-selected ‘ethnic’ actors or, worse, Caucasians in make-up. The pair embarked on a widespread trip across the Pacific from Hawaii and Tahiti to Tonga and Fiji, assembling an extraordinary cast of Polynesian actors, mostly untrained, including Manu Tupou, a graduate student from Fiji who took on the key role of Keoki, and Jocelyne LaGarde, a towering Tahitian who had absolutely no previous acting experience and could barely even speak English but whose extraordinary performance as the Ali’i Nui would earn her a Golden Globe and an Academy Award nomination (Dougherty and Roussel, 80-88 passim).

With the cast assembled, principal filming on Hawaii started in April 1965 with location shooting for the early New England scenes in Old Sturbridge Village, Massachusetts. This was followed by seven weeks’ studio filming of interiors in Hollywood, then a long final phase of location shooting in Hawaii from June (Lightman, 828-29). Inevitably on a production of such length and scale, there were problems. Some were due to Hill’s lack of experience in managing the logistics of a huge shoot, some the result of using so many actors who had never before stepped in front of a camera, and some simply the unfortunate effect of intemperate conditions beyond human control: unseasonal snowstorms in Massachusetts, heavy rain in Hawaii, and even a tidal wave alert (Lightman, 857; West, 32).

The net effect was that the production fell increasingly behind schedule and budget costs ballooned to over $10 million (West, 32). At one point during the Hawaiian shoot in late July, things got so dire that a panicked Mirisch temporarily sacked Hill with plans to replace him with Arthur Hiller (Mirisch, 241-43; “Hill or Hiller?” 1; Seidenbaum, 14). However, Mirisch was forced into a rapid about-face when the local Polynesian cast and crew, who had come to love and respect Hill, refused to work for anyone else (”Hill Stays,” 1; Horton, 60; Dougherty and Roussel,102ff). As a compromise, Hill agreed to speed things up and to work further with Dalton Trumbo on implementing radical cuts to the script. Because the film was being shot more or less in continuity, Trumbo was able to work backwards from the last page, “eliminating characters which had not yet been established and telescoping events that had not yet taken place” (West, 33). Twenty years of the story was trimmed from the script, including the entire subplot concerning Chinese immigrants, and a new ending was devised.***

With all the flying-by-the-pants-seat drama, it’s a miracle that Hawaii was ever completed but shooting finally wrapped in November 1965, three months and almost $8 million over budget. There then followed an extended post-production period where Mirisch, Hill and editor Stuart Gilmore set about carefully piecing the film together out of hundreds of hours of footage (Mirisch, 232). The first rough cut ran at just over four hours but they managed to whittle it down further to the film’s eventual premiere release length of 189 minutes. To help frame the film’s story and lend it added weight, a special introductory prologue was assembled from footage shot by second unit director, James Blue, with a narrational voice-over by Manu Tupou. Elmer Bernstein composed a sumptuous score – recorded in a series of sessions through June-August, 1966 – which added immeasurable atmosphere and sweep to the film and has today become a justly well-regarded classic in its own right (Townson, 2002).

Two secret test previews of the film were held during September in Santa Barbara and Minneapolis respectively and both received positive feedback which helped to assuage studio anxiety (Holston, 194; Mirisch, 231). Indeed in a sign of growing studio confidence, United Artists even used the film’s production travails as a selling feature with a theatrical trailer that proudly proclaimed the film as “five years in preparation” and “two years of production!” Finally, in October the curtains rose on Hawaii. As was the custom with big Hollywood films of the era, Hawaii was initially released as a hard-ticket roadshow presentation, screened at prestige, reserve-seat theatres in key metropolitan markets – complete with overture, intermission, and exit music – before going into “general” release later in 1967 in an edited version, shorn of the Intermission and about 20 minutes of screen action (Holston, 193-95).

The critical reception of Hawaii was polite but decidedly mixed. Most reviewers praised the film’s production values and thought the performances were generally strong. However, many found the film an awkward oddity and weren’t quite sure what to make of it. In a characteristic example, Vincent Canby of The New York Times noted the film has all the features of a big screen epic – “eyepopping scenes of storm and seascape, of pomp and pestilence, all laid out in large strokes of brilliant De Luxe color on the huge Panavision screen” – but its central story about a bumptious Calvinist missionary and its tragic themes of cultural loss seemed “about as much at home as the focal point for this kind of narrative as a parson in a bawdy house.” “Not since the Rev. Mr. Davidson went after Sadie Thompson has Protestant Christian proselytism come off so poorly on screen. There’s nothing wrong about that. It’s just a surprise that when the film finally lumbers to its close to find Mr. Von Sydow…still a figure of unexplored pathos” (54).

In a similar vein, Time magazine found Hawaii a “lively, fairly intelligent” film spectacle with all the “epic tricks” of “windstorms, conflagrations, eruptions, street fights, breech births, shark attacks, luaus, lava-lavas and assorted shouts and muumuus” but with a surprisingly intimate, even melancholic, storyline. “The spectator is rather too frequently allowed to feel that he is watching a rather small film on a very large screen…sitting through a 3½-hour story that could have been told just as well in two” (”Shouts,” 118). Philip Scheuer of the Los Angeles Times concurred that the film’s “subject matter” and “discouragingly downbeat…denouement” made for a strange Hollywood epic, speculating its critique of “Yankee imperialism” is “not going to make 100% Americans happy,” even as he predicted it “will still be one of the outstanding pictures of 1966″ (1, 10).

Hawaii had its share of critical plaudits, though. The reviewer for Variety praised the film’s “[s]uperior production, acting and direction” that “give depth and credibility” to its “themes of personal tragedy, set against the clash of two civilizations” (6). Marjory Adams of the Boston Globe called it “the most noteworthy…production of the year,” “an extraordinary motion picture with so much to enchant, so much to admire, so much that is stirring” (37). Hawaii even found an unlikely champion in Pauline Kael. The notoriously acerbic critic had reservations about the film but declared it “a surprisingly absorbing movie” that “sticks to your bones.” “Even the things done badly are interesting,” she wrote, “because we can see what those who made the film were trying to get at…It would be a loss if people wouldn’t respond to a movie like Hawaii for its characters and subject matter” (34-35).

Kael needn’t have worried. “[A]udiences liked Hawaii,” recounts Walter Mirisch, “They liked it a lot!” (233). The film came in with advance exhibition commitments in excess of $10 million (”‘Hawaii’ Commitments,” 9), and broke all previous records for a UA roadshow release in its first five weeks alone (”’Hawaii’ Breaks,” 19). By the time it finished its run, Hawaii realised domestic rentals in excess of $15 million with a conservative estimated global take of $35 million, sufficient to make it the top grossing film of 1966 and return a healthy profit (“All-Time Film Rental Champs,” 216). Hawaii also fared quite well in the awards stakes garnering seven Academy Award nominations, though no wins, and three Golden Globe nominations with two wins for Best Supporting Actress (Jocelyne LaGarde) and Best Score (Elmer Bernstein).

In his book-length assessment of the films of George Roy Hill, Andrew Horton (2005) calls Hawaii a film that was “in many ways…ahead of its time.” “As a film about the corruption of Hawaii, Hill’s project is devastating,” he writes, “But as a parable applicable to other situations such as Vietnam, the message is contemporary and pertinent.” Moreover, the work has been vindicated, he asserts, “and Hawaii remains a film that continues to grow in importance as it is revived and reviewed” (58). Not entirely convinced that Hawaii is undergoing a latter-day revival – it still seems little-known outside groups of hardcore classic film fans – but it’s a very appealing idea, and deliciously appropriate for a film about religious evangelism! Hawaii is a flawed work by any estimate but it is endlessly fascinating and quite possibly the favourite non-musical Julie film of the Parallel Julieverse, so we are very happy to do our bit in fanning the revival and spreading the word! So, step on in to the tent, brothers and sisters, for there’ll be more to come…


* All history is Rashomon, they say, and sorting through the multiple accounts from those involved in the production of Hawaii elicits a barrage of competing – and sometimes contradictory – claims. In his memoir, Walter Mirisch (2008) states that the two picture deal emerged quite late in the process as the brainchild of Fred Zinemann (220-221). However, other sources date it much earlier. Daniel Taradash recalls:

“It was my proposal to Freddie Zinnemann that we do two pictures and sell tickets as a pair – there’s no way of doing that whole book in three hours. United Artists liked the idea and so did Harold Mirisch [Walter’s older brother and CEO till ill-health forced his retirement from the project]. We had a big meeting planned…and Harold was late. He had had a heart attack. It was a bad omen. And I had over-researched the picture. I had written 40 pages of screenplay, and I felt I just couldn’t do the two pictures in time. I suggested getting Dalton Trumbo in. But they read the 40 pages and were crazy about them. They said they’d wait…Well, I got 180 pages of script and I had lunch with Freddie and told him, ‘Do just the one film and call it a day. I don’t know whether any one director would have the stamina to cover this entire thing.’ He wanted to go all the way, though,and that’s when I left. They brought Trumbo in and then George Roy Hill. Freddie could never get the money for two pictures” (Cited in McGilligan, 325).

** The irony of Julie’s casting in Hawaii over Audrey Hepburn who had previously been announced for the film was not lost on commentators of the time with Variety noting:

“It’s an Alfonse-Gaston [sic] relationship between Audrey Hepburn  and Julie Andrews. First Miss Hepburn was assigned Miss Andrews’ role in the screen version of ‘My Fair Lady.’ Now George Roy Hill has cast Miss Andrews in the role of Jerusha in ‘Hawaii,’ a part which had been set for Miss Hepburn when Fred Zinnemann was planning to do the film.” (“News Round-Up,” 4)

*** Apropos this turbulent period of the production, the Rashomon effect hits hard in the literature. The essentials remain the same – Hill was briefly fired, Trumbo was brought back in for rewrites, cast and crew threatened to mutiny, etc – but the sequence of events and who did what differ markedly across  accounts (West, 32-33; Mirisch, 227-232; Dougherty and Roussel, 100-108).


Adams, Marjory. “'Hawaii’ Spectacle Requires Attentive Audience.” Boston Globe. 21 October 1966: 37.

“All-Time Film Rental Champs By Decade.” Weekly Variety. 22 February 1993: 200-222.

Alpert, Hollis. “Hawaii.” The Saturday Review. 15 October 1966: 26.

Archerd, Army. “Just for Variety.” Daily Variety. 20 February 1961: 2.

Balio, Tino. United Artists, Volume 2, 1951–1978: The Company That Changed the Film Industry. Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin Press, 1987.

Callan, Michael Feeney. Richard Harris: Sex, Death and the Movies. London: Robson, 2003.

Canby, Vincent. “Screen: ‘Hawaii,’ Big, Long Film, Has Its Premiere.” The New York Times. 11 October 1966: 54.

Ceplair, Larry and Trumbo, Christopher. Dalton Trumbo: Blacklisted Hollywood Radical. Lexington, KY: University of Kentucky Press, 2014.

“Cut Down ‘Hawaii’.” Daily Variety. 28 October 1964: 3.

Dick, Bernard F. Radical Innocence: A Critical Study of the Hollywood Ten. Lexington, KY: University of Kentucky Press, 1989.

Dougherty, Marion and Roussel, Tom. My Casting Couch Was Too Short. Bloomington: Xlibris, 2015.

Hanson, Peter. Dalton Trumbo, Hollywood Rebel: A Critical Survey and Filmography. Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Co., 2001.

“‘Hawaii’ Breaks Roadshow Record.” The Montreal Gazette. 15 December 1966: 19.

“‘Hawaii’ Commitments Top $10 Million in U.S. Dates.” Motion Picture Exhibitor. 23 March 1966: 13.

“Hill or Miller? ‘Hawaii’ Halts While Mirisch Decides.” Daily Variety. 2 August 1965: 1.

“Hill Signed to ‘Hawaii’.” Daily Variety. 27 April 1964: 1.

“Hill Stays At Helm Of ‘Hawaii’.” Daily Variety. 3 August 1965: 1, 10.

Holston, Kim. Movie Roadshows: A History and Filmography of Reserved-Seat Limited Showings, 1911-1973. Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Co., 2002.

Horton, Andrew. The Films of George Roy Hill. Rev. ed. Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Co., 2005.

Kael, Pauline. “Films: Epics, ‘The Bible’ and ‘Hawaii’.” The New Republic. 22 October 1966: 30-35.

Lightman, Herb A. “The Filming of ‘Hawaii’.” American Cinematographer. 47: 12, December 1966: 828-31, 856-57.

May, Stephen J. Michener: A Writer’s Journey. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2005.

McGilligan, Patrick. Backstory 2: Interviews with Screenwriters of the 1940s and 1950s. Berkeley: University of Caifornia Press, 1991.

Mirisch, Walter. I Thought We Were Making Movies, Not History. Madison, WI: University of Madison Press, 2008.

“News Round-Up.” Weekly Variety. 16 December 1964: 4.

“Review: ‘Hawaii’.” Daily Variety. 5 October 1966: 6.

Scheuer, Philip K. “’Hawaii:’ Poi in the Sky.” Los Angeles Times Calendar. 9 October 1966: 1, 10.

Seidenbaum, Art. “Happy Actors in the Land of Trade Winds.” The Los Angeles Times. 12 September 1965: Calendar 14.

“Shouts and Muumuus.” Time. 21 October 1966: 118.

Townson, Robert. “From the Boundless Deep Behold Hawaii!” Hawaii, The Deluxe Edition. CD. Studio City, CA: Varese Sarabande, 2002.

West, Tom. “Doing ‘Hawaii” on $14,000,000.” Los Angeles Times West Magazine. 23 October 1966: 28-33.

“Zinnemann Exits 'Hawaii’.” Daily Variety. 6 February 1964: 1.

© 2016, Brett Farmer. All Rights Reserved. 

anonymous asked:

*Curtsies* Thanks for your advice about writing characters! I wondered if any books stand out to you as having especially good characterisation?

*Curtsies* Sure, there are many. This is much easier if I have a genre to work with, but at random Keri Hulme’s The Bone People (a brutal but beautiful book), pretty much anything by Iris Murdoch, John Knowles’s A Separate Peace, James A. Michener’s The Drifters, Meg Wolitzer’s The Interestings, Jennifer Egan’s The Keep, Kurt Vonnegut’s Hocus Pocus, recently Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney’s The Nest… I could go on.

Vintage & original silver gelatin photograph capturing a behind the scenes view of Grace Kelly and Hollywood’s most renowned fashion designer Edith Head. Head, who was in charge of wardrobe for the film “The Bridges at Toko-Ri”, appears to be helping Kelly into a plush robe to help keep her warm on set during the scenes in which she wears only a bathing suit. A fantastic Golden Age of Hollywood view!

Paper caption reads: “GRACE KELLY, Hollywood’s most intriguing newcomer, teams with William Holden, Fredric March and Mickey Rooney in the Perlberg-Seaton production, ‘The Bridges at Toko-Ri’ for Paramount. Miss Kelly is a Philadelphia heiress who turned down several Hollywood offers until she thought she was ready. Her first important film, 'Mogambo,’ won her an Academy Award nomination. A soft-spoken blonde, she keeps Hollywood mystified by the 'iron curtain’ of privacy with which she covers her private life. In 'The Bridge at Toko-Ri’ she plays Holden’s wife. The James A. Michener story was made largely on location in Japan and with a task force off Korea. Mark Robson directed.

“Dường như một quy luật bất di bất dịch của bản chất con người là mỗi thế hệ mới lại ăn mặc, nói năng, làm tình và nghe nhạc theo cách được tính toán kỹ càng nhất để chọc giận các bậc cao niên.”

(“Sáu người đi khắp thế gian” - James Albert Michener)

#CHIÊU Rules don’t ever exist.

anonymous asked:

*curtsies* Dear Duke, what book(s) would you recommended a less emotional more analytical person? Favourite genre is historical fiction and I do enjoy an interesting love story so don't rule them out.

*Curtsies* I might suggest reading some true crime. (Personally I’m also a bit this way and really love getting lost in the details of that kind of thing.) Vince Bugliosi’s Helter Skelter is probably the best TC I’ve read in recent years and let me just tell you, it’s got more detail than you’ll know what to do with but it’s fascinating all the way through. If you’re not so warm to the nonfiction idea that’s totally cool, and what I might suggest is James Michener. He wrote all these big long epic novels that are all about the history of a particular place and they’re definitely something to keep your brain busy. He also, incidentally, wrote one of my favorite kind of epic travelogues of all time, which is called The Drifters. If you’re looking for something rich and detailed but which still follows few enough characters that you can keep track of/get attached to them, I might start there. Another idea in the same vein would be Eleanor Catton’s The Luminaries, which is the kind of book where you have to pay attention to follow all the breadcrumbs. It’s also set against the fascinating backdrop of a New Zealand gold mining town in the 1800s and it’s SO engaging (at least, I thought so). If you like complex, intricate historical fiction that might be right up your alley.

Goddammit, I wish you’d listen to my main argument. Thirty years from now the government, the banks, the important businesses, the universities and everything that counts in this world will be run by today’s humanities majors. The scientists will never run anything except laboratories, they never have, they never can. Yet in this university we spend all our time and money training scientists and we ignore the humanities people on whom the welfare and guidance of the world have always depended and will always depend. I say that is stupidity, and if the Board of Regents and the faculty aren’t smart enough to stop it, we must.
—  James A. Michener, The Drifters