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He might not have the high pop-culture profile of Michael Crichton, that other bestselling writer who attended Harvard Medical School, but 36-year-old Ethan Canin — author of The Palace Thief, a 1994 book of novellas — is among the country’s most acclaimed fiction writers. While at work on his second novel, Canin found time last year to edit a book of stories, with proceeds to benefit the national anti-hunger group Share Our Strength. The anthology, Writers Harvest 2 (New York: Harcourt Brace & Co., 1996), includes works by Julia Alvarez and Melanie Rae Thon. We asked Canin what’s caught his eye lately. Here’s what he said about the film Shine:

“It’s about a young, brilliant pianist with mental illness, and as I was watching it (and listening to it), I was overcome with the sense of the angel of music — this graceful thing that touches down now and then on earth and produces such a soul-cracking gift. That’s how I felt listening — that my soul had been cracked open.”

Also recommended by Canin:

Legends of the Fall (New York: Delta Trade Paperbacks, 1994) by Jim Harrison. “What I love about Harrison’s work is the absolutely arresting rhythm of the language, the long comma-less sentences that seem to speak themselves out loud as you read. He’s one of the writers I read when I want to be inspired to write.”

The Night in Question (New York: Knopf, 1996) by Tobias Wolff. “His books are very readable, which sounds like a pale compliment but in fact is a huge compliment. I like his stories about childhood particularly, the sense of a kid who is just a little desperate, just a little ragged, just a little bit outside the shining light.”


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