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Inspired Correspondent
Maria_H
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Questions for Ethan Canin

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Distinguished Bibliophile
Peppermill
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Re: Questions for Ethan Canin

Mr. Canin -- thank you for your book!  I seldom read new hardcovers, but the B&N publicity and the announcement you would be discussing the book here led me to make the investment, both in dollars and time.

 

At this point, so early in the discussion, I would appreciate your comments on how we all can have a great conversation here without venturing into that unfair territory of "spoilers" for other readers.

 

Pepper 

"Seize the moments of happiness, love and be loved! That is the only reality in the world, all else is folly. It is the one thing we are interested in here." -- Leo Tolstoy
Author
Ethan_Canin
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Re: Questions for Ethan Canin


Peppermill wrote:

Mr. Canin -- thank you for your book!  I seldom read new hardcovers, but the B&N publicity and the announcement you would be discussing the book here led me to make the investment, both in dollars and time.

 

At this point, so early in the discussion, I would appreciate your comments on how we all can have a great conversation here without venturing into that unfair territory of "spoilers" for other readers.

 

Pepper 


 

Hi, Pepper,

I'm new at this kind of thing, but I suspect spoilers won't be a problem if people are careful to label any potentially spoiling posts right at the top. There definitely are some plot points that ought to stay hidden.

 

Thanks for starting things off. I'm looking forward to this conversation.

--ec


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New User
KarenS
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Registered: ‎08-04-2008
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Re: Questions for Ethan Canin

Do you plan to write any novels with a medical backdrop?
Distinguished Bibliophile
Peppermill
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Re: Questions for Ethan Canin

Mr. Canin -- please comment about the experience of being encouraged by Danielle Steel while in prep school. She, of course, is one of the phenomenally best remunerated authors the industry has seen. Yet, discerning readers sometimes decry the simplicity and repetition of some of her prose despite her incredible abilities to spin tales that attract readers. So, I am intrigued that your biography here mentions her influence on your career.
"Seize the moments of happiness, love and be loved! That is the only reality in the world, all else is folly. It is the one thing we are interested in here." -- Leo Tolstoy
Author
Ethan_Canin
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Registered: ‎07-25-2008
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Re: Questions for Ethan Canin

Hi, Peppermill,

Danielle Steel was my high school English teacher, you're right. But at the time, she'd only published one book and was hardly making a living at it. The book was called "Passion's Promise." You can imagine what a class of 17 yr olds--especially the boys like me who sat in the back row--made of that one. But Danielle was extraordinary. She made us write every day; since then, I've taught a fair amount myself, and I know that if you make your students write every day, you are also obligating yourself to correct papers every day. But she never shied from work. An attribute that has obviously served her well, I might add. 

Take care,

ec 

 


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Ethan_Canin
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Re: Questions for Ethan Canin

Hi, Karen,

Will I ever write a novel with a medical backdrop? I suppose my answer is that I won't until I'm out of other ideas. What a writer knows, what a writer has actually experienced, is so much stronger than what he (or she) can imagine that the only way to imagine anything is to imagine everything. So I tend not to write from my own life.

That said, I've thought about writing medical non-fiction. Or perhaps historical fiction based on medical history--this seems foreign enough to me that I could still fabricate the present.

It's really a question of figuring the best way to nurture one's ability to invent.

Take care. Thanks for writing.

ec


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Fozzie
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Re: Questions for Ethan Canin


Ethan_Canin wrote:

What a writer knows, what a writer has actually experienced, is so much stronger than what he (or she) can imagine that the only way to imagine anything is to imagine everything. So I tend not to write from my own life.


Interesting!

 

I have heard people say you should write what you know, but you do the opposite.

Laura

Reading gives us someplace to go when we have to stay where we are.
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Ethan_Canin
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Re: Questions for Ethan Canin

Laura,

I once wanted to write an essay about this, but Ken Kesey beat me to it. Years ago, I think in the NYT Book Review, he wrote a piece that said, essentially, "write about what you don't know about what you do know." That's my feeling, too. That writing takes place in the near dark just beyond your vision; that unless you discover something in that dark, something that interests and is new to you as a writer, you'll never interest a reader. 

And furthermore, I always tell my students that if you write what you set out to write, you've failed.

Are you a writer yourself?

ec 


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Fozzie
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Re: Questions for Ethan Canin


Ethan_Canin wrote:

Are you a writer yourself?


No, not at all!  I don't even keep a journal of any sort, except a list with a  short comment on books I read.  I read a statistic several years ago that something like 75% of people feel like they have a book in them to write.  I was shocked at the high percentage.  I am not one of the majority, I guess.  However, I love to read and I am always interested in where writers get their ideas for stories.

Laura

Reading gives us someplace to go when we have to stay where we are.
New User
sdhonda
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Re: Questions for Ethan Canin

Is the Senator character based on anyone?

Author
Ethan_Canin
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Re: Questions for Ethan Canin

Is Senator Bonwiller based on anyone? I’d say no. There are some plot similarities to the life of Ted Kennedy, but those similarities didn’t guide me (any more that did similarities to the life of, say, Representative Gary Condit). If I was thinking of anybody, it was Lyndon Johnson—for his combination of public altruism and a fierce, even ruthless, pursuit of personal power. When I read aloud from this book, I find myself reading Senator Bonwiller’s dialogue with a southern accent—an odd detail for a Senator from New York State, but also an unconscious nod, I think, to LBJ.

Thanks for asking.  

--ec 


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MJane
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Re: Questions for Ethan Canin

Mr. Canin.  I enjoyed America America very much.  As part of a very small reading group (no matter how many attend each month, only the leader and I have read the book), I make notes as I read for later discussion.  My notebook is full of descriptions and quotes I enjoyed, learned from, and identified with.  One such note was the politeness of the people (sir used a lot).  It used to be common in the south to show such respect, although, such is not the case in the 21st century.  Thank you, too, for the touching relationship between Corey and his mother.  That was real to me!  I will enjoy discussing your book this month and am glad to have the forum to tell you so!
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Ethan_Canin
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Re: Questions for Ethan Canin

Thanks, MJane, for the kind note. I used to be in a reading group like that myself. It eventually degenerated into a TV group. Then into a social group. And it was all writers.

Take care,

ec 


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anw
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anw
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Re: Questions for Ethan Canin

[ Edited ]

 Hi Mr.. Canin.  I just finished America America.  What a treat.  Thank you for bringing all the story threads to a finish.

 

  I actually have many questions that I would like to ask, but will limit it to one (although it is a bit of a cheat.)  I had another question about Mr. Metary, but it would be a spoiler.

 

  A number of my good reading friends and I have compiled a "favorite list."  Although the lists are always changing (i.e.. my list now includes America America,)  we love to keep the lists and exchange them.  Some of us try to read others' favorites.  We have two lists- best overall and best beach reads.  The overall list differs from the beach list in that War and Peace or Night may be  best overall, but not  beach reads.  Beach read does not contemplate fluff, but rather a book that one would enjoy reading outside on a sunny day.  We would be honored for you to share your lists with us.  It will go without saying that while your list should include your books, we would ask you to give us ten others!

 

Can't wait to read your other books.

 

Thanks for a gem of a book.

 

anw 

Message Edited by anw on 08-15-2008 08:31 PM
Author
Ethan_Canin
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Re: Questions for Ethan Canin

Hi,

That's a tough one. But let me list a few that come quickly to mind. I should say that i don't read many fluff books, mostly because I don't have time. I have three little kids, so it's a wonder i read any books at all. In the last decade, say, ten books I've loved, in no particular order except how they're coming to me, are: American Pastoral (Roth), Sacred Hunger (Unsworth), Open Secrets (Munro), The Deptford Trilogy (Davies--three books), Mr Bridge (Connell), Middlesex (Eugenides), You Are Not a Stranger Here (Hazlett), A Few Short Notes on Tropical Butterflies (Murray), Henderson the Rain King (Bellow). How's that for starters?

I generally like books that do the difficult thing, which for writers--at least writers like me--is to bring a plot to fruition. That's the most elusive part of writing, to invent a story whose ending, as Flannery O'Connor once said (brilliantly), is "both surprising and inevitable." Not all the books above satisfy that criterion, but none of them is purely a language piece. Language pieces, to me, are the easy thing; I like to be impressed by a work of art. Moved, too, but also impressed.

Have a good evening.

ec


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Krissen
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Registered: ‎08-24-2008
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Re: Questions for Ethan Canin

Hi Ethan; I kept getting the feeling that even though Corey loved his wife very much, that he was aware of the role fate--and his relationship with this family--played in the limited options available to him. Several times you made references to paths taken or choices made unknowingly, that set wheels into motion. Am I reading more into this than you intended, or was this intentional foreshadowing?       ~Krisson~
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Krissen
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Re: Questions for Ethan Canin

PS for Ethan---In my excitement to communicate with you, I forgot to mention that I have enjoyed all of your published novels and short stories. They show a deeper understanding and insight into human emotion than most people can grasp, let alone express in words. You truly do show us-- rather than tell us-- who the characters are; and I come away from your work feeling like I've known them personally. I read your books with great ambivilance, because I'm anxious to see how the story turns out, yet dread having it end, because I miss the characters when it's over. My wait for America America began the day that I finished Carry Me Across The Water. It was well worth the wait.  Kudos           ~Krissen~ 
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Blissterria
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Registered: ‎08-24-2008
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Re: Questions for Ethan Canin

Hello Ethan ,

                             I've become aware of the fact that some of the titles of your books are inspired by song lyrics. I find this very intriguing and am curious to know where you find inspiration to choose the names of your characters.I am usually a speed reader, but this book has pulled me in and slowed me down to the point of not wanting it to end. Beautiful story athough tragic. I look forward to the next one. 

 

Stephanie

Author
Ethan_Canin
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Registered: ‎07-25-2008
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Re: Questions for Ethan Canin

Hi, Krissen,

Thanks for your question, but I don't think I understand it. Would you be more specific?

In general, I don't like the term foreshadowing; in my view of things, Corey is telling a story because he's been complicit in a serious and morally complicated tragedy and is now contemplating all of it--how he was drawn into it, for example, but also how he himself aspired his way into a dangerous inner circle. He hints at revelations in part because he still cannot bring himself to admit them, out of loyalty to a man who gave him much but also cost him a great deal. And he hints at things and hides things, reveals them in their time, because he wants to tell a story. That's my guiding principle: tell a story as its narrator would tell it.

--ec


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