The Collected Stories of Evan S. Connell

Evan S. Connell, Author Counterpoint LLC $30 (688p) ISBN 978-1-887178-06-8
Connell, now 70, is a consummate craftsman who has enjoyed some remarkable successes (Mrs. Bridge and Son of the Morning Star) but who has never developed a clear literary profile. The publication of his collected stories is a bold move by new Counterpoint (run out of Washington, D.C., by Jack Shoemaker, formerly of North Point), but it is not clear that such an effort is justified by the work. It is an odd profile as a story writer the enigmatic Connell presents here: among the 56 stories, more than half were written in the 1950s, almost none for 30 years following the mid-'60s, then a sudden burst of creativity, with a dozen stories written in the past two years. There are common themes, even common characters, running throughout. A writer called Koerner represents some aspects of Connell himself (a taciturn loner who surveys the literary scene with some disdain); Mr. Muhlbach, an insurance executive who feels that life is passing him by--and who stars in two of the most memorable stories, ``St. Augustine's Pigeon'' and ``Otto and the Magi''--seems emblematic of the solid bourgeois St. Louis world in which Connell grew up, and which also gave birth to Mr. and Mrs. Bridge; Leon and Bebert are a pair of cutups who become involved in farcical situations and absurdist conversations. The material is carefully distanced, the narration observant but deadpan, the style, particularly in the earlier stories and sketches, Hemingway-plain. The recent, previously unpublished stories show a growing warmth: ``Noah's Ark'' is a touching vignette of the trials of faith; ``Cantinflas and the Cop'' is a harrowing sketch of the impact of urban violence; and ``Mrs. Proctor Bemis'' shows that Connell is perfectly capable of bringing Mrs. Bridge up to the moment. The question remains whether the oeuvre deserves a book of this scope; perhaps just the new and uncollected stories would have made a more digestible volume. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 10/02/1995
Release date: 10/01/1995
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Paperback - 675 pages - 978-1-887178-39-6
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