“Extraordinary for its craft and emotional effect . . . [Ethan Canin is] a writer of enormous talent and charm.”
–The Washington Post
“Character is destiny,” wrote Heraclitus–and in this collection of four unforgettable stories, we meet people struggling to understand themselves and the unexpected turns their lives have taken. In “Accountant,” a quintessential company man becomes obsessed with the phenomenal success of a reckless childhood friend. “Batorsag and Szerelem” tells the story of a boy’s fascination with the mysterious life and invented language of his brother, a math prodigy. In “City of Broken Hearts,” a divorced father tries to fathom the patterns of modern relationships. And in “The Palace Thief,” a history teacher at an exclusive boarding school reflects on the vicissitudes of a lifetime connection with a student scoundrel. A remarkable achievement by one of America’s finest writers, this brilliant volume reveals the moments of insight that illuminate everyday lives.
“Captivating . . . a heartening tribute to the form . . . an exquisite performance.”
–The Boston Sunday Globe
“A model of wit, wisdom, and empathy. Chekhov would have appreciated its frank renderings and quirky ironies.”
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Ethan Canin is the author of seven books, including the story collections Emperor of the Air and The Palace Thief and the novels For Kings and Planets, Carry Me Across the Water, America America, and A Doubter’s Almanac. He is on the faculty of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and divides his time between Iowa and northern Michigan.From Kirkus Reviews:
Canin's return to short fiction should be a cause for welcome- -yet isn't, disappointingly. In four adipose, rhetorical, quite forced long stories, he continues--as in his unfortunate last book, the novel Blue River (1991)--to strive for ``wise'' adult tonalities. But these rich, deep voices all but neglect the small flashes of humaneness and helpless knowledge that made Canin's debut collection, Emperor of the Air (1988), remarkable--turning him into a writer who builds high, fussy, false ceilings without walls to support them. Upon an unstartling theme--that we repeat as adults what we do as children- -each story here plays out a variation. In the baldest, the title piece, a powerful captain of industry still is moved to impress his elderly prep-school teacher with his temerity and moral sleaze. In ``Accountant,'' an old friend's later-life success throws a careful man to the edge of his rectitude. In ``City of Broken Hearts,'' a middle-aged father learns something about trust and love from his college-aged son. And in ``Batorsag and Szerelem,'' a boy observes in his elder genius brother what seem like signs of schizophrenia but are instead sexual misapprehensions. It's here that the book is most ragged but also most genuine-seeming: the younger boy has available to him an X-raying psychology no grown-up character in Canin ever does (Canin must be the ultimate ``kid-brother'' writer)--and it's frustrating that this quicksilver perceptiveness is given so little play in the stories, which are bulked-up instead with grown-up characters that are invariably slow, large, and overwide. The stories thus always seem to be wearing their parent's clothes--an effect that reaches into the prose itself, a simulacrum of Cheeverian and Peter Tayloresque modulation that in Canin's hands is just pomp and circumstance. -- Copyright ©1993, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.
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