Evan S. Connell
|Evan S. Connell|
|Born||Evan Shelby Connell, Jr.
August 17, 1924
Kansas City, Missouri, US
|Died||January 10, 2013
Santa Fe, New Mexico
|Subject||George Armstrong Custer|
|Notable works||Mrs. Bridge, Mr. Bridge, Son of the Morning Star|
Evan Shelby Connell, Jr. (August 17, 1924 – January 10, 2013) was an American novelist, poet, and short-story writer. He also published under the name Evan S. Connell, Jr. His writing covered a variety of genres, although he has published most frequently in fiction.
In 2009, Connell was nominated for the Man Booker International Prize, for lifetime achievement. On April 23, 2010, he was awarded a Los Angeles Times Book Prize: the Robert Kirsch Award, for "a living author with a substantial connection to the American West, whose contribution to American letters deserves special recognition."
Connell was born in Kansas City, Missouri, the only son of Evan S. Connell, Sr. (1890–1974), a physician, and Ruth Elton Connell. He had a sister Barbara (Mrs. Matthew Zimmermann) to whom he dedicated his novel Mrs. Bridge (1959). He graduated from Southwest High School in Kansas City in 1941. He started undergraduate work at Dartmouth College but joined the Navy in 1943 and became a pilot. After the end of World War II, he graduated from the University of Kansas in 1947, with a B.A. in English. He studied creative writing at Columbia University in New York and Stanford University in California. He never married, and lived and worked in San Francisco for decades.
Connell's novels Mrs. Bridge (1959) and Mr. Bridge (1969) are bittersweet, gently satirical portraits of a conventional, unimaginative upper middle-class couple living in Kansas City from the 1920s to the 1940s. The couple tries to live up to societal expectations and to be good parents, but they are sadly incapable of bridging the emotional distance between themselves and their children, and between each other.
The pair of novels was adapted as a 1990 Merchant-Ivory motion picture, Mr. and Mrs. Bridge, starring Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward. Critics gave the film mixed reviews. Hal Hinson wrote in The Washington Post that "the film comes with a built-in problem. Its subject is emotional repression, and the challenge is to make a film about a soul-deep conservatism that doesn't itself suffer from the excess caution and lack of dynamism that its characters do. However, it's not a challenge that is met."
Connell's 1960 novel, The Patriot, is the story of Melvin Isaacs, aged 17, and his experiences in naval aviation school during the Second World War. Melvin faces the terrifying reality of training and the likelihood of his "washing out" (failing). Melvin's attempts to communicate the realities of his experience to his father are rebuffed. The characters of Melvin and his father Jacob are similar in many respects to those of Douglas and Mr. Bridge.
Connell's 1984 biography of George Armstrong Custer, Son of the Morning Star, earned critical acclaim, was a bestseller, and was adapted as a television film/miniseries in 1991. The film won four Emmy Awards.
Legacy and honors
- 2009, he was nominated for the third Man Booker International Prize, for lifetime achievement.
- 2010, he received the Los Angeles Times Book Prize: the Robert Kirsch Award.
- Carlson, Michael (January 14, 2013). "Evan S Connell obituary". London: The Guardian. Retrieved January 14, 2013.
- Los Angeles Times Book Prizes, home page
- Lawrence M. Bensky, "Meet Evan Connell, Friend of Mr. and Mrs. Bridge", The New York Times, April 20, 1969; retrieved on June 8, 2009
- Yardley, William (January 10, 2013). "Evan Connell, 88, Novelist in Multiple Genres". The New York Times.
- Hinson, Hal (February 1, 1991). "'Mr. and Mrs. Bridge' (PG-13)". Washington Post. Retrieved February 24, 2009.
- Oppenheimer, Mark (February 2005). "An Era of Awkward Repression". The Believer. Retrieved April 10, 2013.
- The Anatomy Lesson (1957) (short stories)
- Mrs. Bridge (1958)
- The Patriot (1960)
- Notes From A Bottle Found on the Beach at Carmel (1962) (poetry)
- At The Crossroads (1965) (short stories)
- The Diary of a Rapist (1966)
- "Here it is", in Why Work Series, editor Gordon Lish (1966)
- Mr. Bridge (1969)
- Points for A Compass Rose (1973) (poetry)
- The Connoisseur (1974)
- Double Honeymoon (1976)
- A Long Desire (1979) (essays)
- White Lantern (1981) (essays)
- "Saint Augustine's Pigeon: The Selected Stories of Evan S. Connell" (1982)
- Son of the Morning Star: Custer and the Little Bighorn (1985, ISBN 0-88394-088-4) (non-fiction)
- The Alchymist's Journal (1991, republished in 2006 as Alchymic Journals)
- The Collected Stories of Evan S. Connell (1995)
- Deus Lo Volt (2000, ISBN 1-58243-140-X)
- The Aztec Treasure House: New and Selected Essays (2001, ISBN 1-58243-253-8)(non-fiction)
- Francisco Goya: A Life (2004, ISBN 1-58243-307-0)
- Lost in Uttar Pradesh (2008 ISBN 978-1-59376-175-2)
- Mark Oppenheimer, "An Era of Awkward Oppression: Evan Connell's Wasps, Spent and Repressed, Offer the Truest View of American Alienation", Believer, February 2005
- Salon.com piece on Connell
- Special issue on Connell: Three articles about him, Open Letters Monthly: an Arts and Literature Review, August 2008: Sam Sacks, "Familiar Wishes"; Steve Donoghue, "Gathering Driftwood"; and John Cotter, "Backyard Arcana"
- Connell's Washington Post obituary