07-25-2008 12:11 PM
This novel by the acclaimed author of Emperor of the Air and The Palace Thief spans four decades of American life. Starting in the Nixon era, America America follows Corey Sifter's progress from his modest roots in western New York to a glittering world of money, ambition, and politics.
Corey's entrée into this realm of promise is the patronage of Liam Metarey, son of a ruthless coal baron who amassed a fortune in the early 1900s. Through Corey's narration, we are drawn into the triumphs and trials of the Metarey family as Liam attempts to orchestrate a presidential nomination for Senator Henry Bonwiller. Thrust into the excitement of the campaign, 16-year-old Corey fetches drinks, parks cars, sets up chairs for press events -- and gets an intimate education in human failings.
A champion of labor and civil rights who opposes the Vietnam War, Bonwiller seems to represent the best traditions of America's liberal coalition. But as both Liam and Corey discover, the senator's moral weakness threatens not only his candidacy but their own hopes and ambitions as well. While rumors of Bonwiller's shady business dealings are held in check by the long arm of Metarey influence, the furor set in motion by the accidental death of a young secretary linked to the candidate is not so easily contained.
Tracing the rise and fall of a politician and a family, and the passing of an idealistic era, Canin's novel moves between the present and the past as Corey chronicles his growth to middle age, his marriage to one of Liam's daughters, and his career as publisher of his hometown newspaper. As he mentors a high school intern at the paper, Corey is prompted to question his own role in the sordid affair that put an end to the senator's presidential bid. Layered with Corey's poignant recognition of what it means to be flawed and fallible, Canin's masterfully crafted plotlines converge to bring this complex tale to its startling, inescapable conclusion.
About Ethan Canin:
For an author who confesses that he finds the process of writing agony -- "I hate it, I really do" -- Ethan Canin has met with extraordinary success. The author of six works of fiction, including the story collections Emperor of the Air and The Palace Thief and the novels For Kings and Planets and Carry Me Across the Water, Canin is widely regarded as one of the most accomplished contemporary American writers.
"To me, a novel is the story of a life," Canin has explained. "That's what interests me. The guy who works in the laundromat, the professor, what happened to them? Where did they make their mistakes? Why didn't they take that job? Why didn't they marry someone else? You could spend the rest of your life thinking about that."
Ethan Canin was born in Ann Arbor, Michigan. He received early encouragement for his writing from a teacher at his prep school, the bestselling author Danielle Steel. A graduate of Stanford University, he received a master's in fine arts from the prestigious Iowa Writers' Workshop before shifting gears to enroll in Harvard Medical School. Canin continued to work as a physician as he wrote and published his first books.
Currently, he serves on the faculty of the Iowa Writers' Workshop and lives with his wife and children in Iowa and California.
08-04-2008 12:07 PM - edited 08-04-2008 08:52 PM