Despite the critical and popular success of his novels Mrs. Bridge and Mr. Bridge, it might be argued that long fiction is not Evan S. Connell’s best form; certainly, it is only one of many literary forms in which he has worked. His Notes from a Bottle Found on the Beach at Carmel (1963) and Points for a Compass Rose (1973) are haunting, sometimes cryptic prose poems, the latter of which was nominated for the National Book Award for poetry in 1974. Termed “vatic literature” by one critic, these books have been compared to T. S. Eliot’s The Waste Land (1922), Ezra Pound’s Cantos (1925-1970), and Albert Camus’s Carnets (1962, 1964; Notebooks, 1963, 1965)—even to “an exotic, unexpurgated Encyclopaedia Britannica.”
Connell’s fascination with the odd particulars of human existence has also produced two well-received collections of essays, A Long Desire (1979) and The White Lantern (1980). Both of these books blend history, legend, and whimsy in essay form as Connell contemplates the singular obsessions of some of the great travelers, explorers, plunderers, and thinkers of world history. His growing fascination with “the Little Bighorn Fiasco” narrowed Connell’s plans for a third book of essays, this time about the Old West, to a nonfiction work about General George A. Custer titled Son of the Morning Star: Custer and the Little Bighorn (1984). In 2004, he published Francisco Goya, a history of the painter’s life and times. Connell’s highly praised short stories have appeared in numerous anthologies and magazines such as Esquire and the Saturday Evening Post. Several volumes of his short fiction have been published, including The Anatomy Lesson, and Other Stories (1957) and Lost in Uttar Pradesh: New and Selected Stories (2008). From 1959 to 1965, Connell was editor of Contact, a well-respected San Francisco literary magazine. He has also written reviews for The New York Times, New York magazine, the San Francisco Chronicle, The Washington Post, and other publications.