Acclaimed writer Evan S. Connell dies at 88

Published on NewsOK Modified: January 11, 2013 at 1:45 am •  Published: January 11, 2013
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In "Mrs. Bridge" and "Mr. Bridge," Connell's narrative was a series of vignettes — some just a few paragraphs — that offer a portrait of the pre-war lives of Walter Bridge, a workaholic lawyer, and his wife, India, who reside in the fashionable country club district of Kansas City.

While the Bridges each are respected members of their class — and respectability is the dearest of goals — Connell also writes of their inner doubts about their marriage, their religious faith and the meaning of their lives.

As much as any work by a writer of Connell's generation, these two novels are likely to live on as classics in our literature, wrote Gerald Shapiro in a 1987 edition of the literary journal, Ploughshares.

Connell "was a trailblazer, a troubadour, one of the first to put the literary scalpel to the suburban skin," Greg Bottoms wrote in Salon.com in 2000 in describing the Bridge novels.

His most recent book was a collection of short stories published in 2008, "Lost in Uttar Pradesh."

He began writing while attending Dartmouth College. But he left in 1943 to enlist in the Navy, becoming a pilot and flight instructor. After the war, he returned to college and graduated from the University of Kansas in 1947 with a degree in English literature.

He studied creative writing at Stanford and Columbia universities, but unlike many authors he never taught, saying that campus life was too comfortable.

He traveled to Europe, and lived briefly in Paris before returning to the United States in the mid-1950s. At times, he took odd-jobs to support his literary pursuits. He once worked as an interviewer in an unemployment office in the San Francisco area, where he lived for more than three decades before moving to New Mexico in 1989. He never married.

The Santa Fe-based Lannan Foundation awarded Connell its $100,000 Literary Award for Lifetime Achievement in 2000.

"We believe he's one of the most important postwar (WWII) American writers," Patrick Lannan said at the time. "To be that good in fiction, nonfiction and poetry is really, really remarkable."

Waller said no funeral services were planned.

Donna Waller's husband, Mike, said the family planned to hold a private memorial service in Santa Fe in spring but no date has been set. He said the family is asking that in lieu of flowers that donations be sent to Bread of the World organization in Connell's name.

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AP National Writer Hillel Italie contributed to this story.