The Long and Short of Lit
I don’t recall anyone telling Poe, Kafka, Paley, or Carver to write longer. So why are we insisting that all of today’s short-story writers become novelists?
I’ve just finished reading Ethan Canin’s new novel—his first in seven years—and I must say, I can’t help sighing for all the short stories he could have written in that time. Canin is one of the best and most successful literary writers the Bay Area has produced in the last few decades. Back in the ’80s, while he was in medical school, he began publishing excellent stories in Esquire, Redbook, and the Boston Globe Magazine, as well as in literary publications such as Ploughshares. In 1988, nine of these stories were collected in Emperor of the Air, which became a New York Times bestseller. Three years later, Canin came out with a novel, Blue River, which received nowhere near the acclaim his stories had. He seemed to get back on track with The Palace Thief (1994), four impressive novellas that received fine reviews. But since then, he has published only novels: For Kings and Planets (1998), Carry Me Across the Water (2001), and now America America.
Canin is not a bad novelist, but he is a great short-fiction writer. Yet everything in publishing today conspires to turn story writers into novelists.
Already criticized for presenting too many “froufrou” shows, Fine Arts Museums director John Buchanan opens a controversial King Tut exhibition with the museums’ artistic reputation hanging in the balance.
John Buchanan doesn’t look worried. He’s well aware of the talk that has centered on the San Francisco–owned Fine Arts Museums (the de Young and the Legion of Honor) since he became FAM’s director in February 2006, a few months after the new de Young opened. He knows he’s been panned in the art world for presenting too many shows to entice visitors—mostly with an overabundance of fashion, jewelry, and the decorative arts—and not enough that challenge them, as well as for bringing in too many big exhibitions from other museums, rather than having FAM originate its own. He must have heard the rumors that he’s on his way out. Yet he seems as calm as Stow Lake on a windless day. You’d never know that the moment of truth for his most controversial decision yet is at hand. Buchanan is opening “Tutankhamun and the Golden Age of the Pharaohs,” an exhibition created not by a museum but by a company better known for producing sports events and concerts by the likes of Britney Spears and Yanni.
Read more: Tut, Tut
The San Francisco Interview: Delroy Lindo
If you don't know him by name, it's because he tends to vanish into his roles—but in real life, this East Bay resident has definite presence. He's made his career choosing craft over celebrity, and his latest venture is par for the course: he's directing a play at Berkeley Rep.
When you think about it, all the Hollywood actors living in the Bay Area have Academy Award–worthy talents. Sean Penn and Robin Williams have already won Oscars, and if Robin Wright Penn took on larger roles in less quirky films, she would certainly be a contender. So would, given a worthy part, the underappreciated Danny Glover. Delroy Lindo is the least known of this group, although—in his ability to vanish into a role—arguably the best actor.
But having worked onstage until he was almost 40 and then moving with his wife, Nashormeh, to the East Bay 11 years ago, just as he was getting lots of calls for film and television work, he never ingratiated himself with Hollywood in the way an aspiring movie star should.
Read more: Delroy Lindo