“I’ve lived in New York before. Everybody says it helps with publicity and awards and stuff like that. I’d rather have my nice life, for example, in Iowa.”
“With this extraordinary novel [A Doubter’s Almanac], Ethan Canin now takes his place on the high wire with the best writers of his time.”
Have you ever wondered what professors at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop teach their students? Well, today you’ll find at least one bit of advice.
On Brian Koppelman’s The Moment podcast interview with author Ethan Canin, Koppelman said that Canin was was “hyper-intelligent.” Canin, you see, dislikes being called an intellectual because he doesn’t like what intellectuals have done with literature.
But a quick glance over Canin’s resume and you can tell that—to paraphrase the great football coach Bobby Bowden—Canin may not be in a class by himself, but whatever class he’s in, it doesn’t take long to do the roll call.
Canin attended Stanford University where he studied mechanical engineering and graduated with an English degree, received an MFA from the University of Iowa, graduated from Harvard Medical School, became a published author (his short story The Palace Thief become the movie The Emperor’s Club), and now he’s a professor at the prestigious Iowa Writers’ Workshop.
“I think life is a struggle for every human being…Life has its difficulties. Everybody’s got a story. One of the things I tell students is nobody’s boring. That’s such a misunderstanding to think somebody’s leading a boring life.”
Brian Koppelman’s The Moment podcast February 2016
Some people live quiet lives, but not a boring one. And every once in a while—like I wrote in my post Good Wil Hunting—a writer comes along late in someone’s life and shows the extraordinary within the ordinary.
P.S. I’ve listen to that Brian Koppelman podcast with Ethan Canin four times all the way through. Stimulating stuff and made me go to the library after the first time I heard it and check out books by Saul Bellow, Tobias Wolff, and John Cheever. Next will be books/short stories by Mark Halprin, Raymond Carver, Nobel Prize-winner Alice Munro, and Barry Unsworth’s Sacred Hunger.
John Irving, Iowa & Writing (My visit to the Iowa Workshop)
(Yawn) Another Pulitzer Prize (for a Workshop graduate)
Postcard #55 (Iowa Writers’ Workshop)
Lena Dunham, Sundance & Iowa
The Juno-Iowa Connection