Evan Shelby Connell, Jr., is one of the more versatile and wide-ranging figures in contemporary American letters. As novelist, short-story writer, poet, and historian, his interests range from the modern world to the vanished societies of antiquity. After growing up in Missouri, Connell interrupted his education at Dartmouth College to become a pilot with the U.S. Navy during World War II. At the end of the war, he took advantage of the G.I. Bill to obtain his B.A. from the University of Kansas. After further study at Stanford, Columbia, and San Francisco State Universities, Connell decided to make his career in the literary field. From 1959 to 1965, he served as an editor of Contact, a small literary magazine, but his main concern was his own writing. To help support himself while writing, he took jobs reading meters, passing out handbills, delivering packages, and working in an unemployment office. He began publishing short stories in various small literary magazines, and his work was included in some anthologies, including the 1955 edition of Best American Short Stories; his first collection of stories, The Anatomy Lesson, and Other Stories, appeared in 1957. His writing began to be recognized by such awards as the Saxton and Guggenheim fellowships and a prestigious Rockefeller Foundation Grant in 1967.
In his fiction, Connell depicts the loneliness and frustration of middle-class Americans struggling through lives devoid of meaning. His short stories reflect this theme, but his novels delineate even more sharply his sense of the emptiness of contemporary existence. Beginning with India Bridge of Mrs. Bridge, a repressed, mentally abused suburban housewife whose domineering husband has left her without a shred of self-esteem, Connell’s novels create a gallery of disconnected, desolate characters. Mrs. Bridge is perhaps the work that best represents Connell’s concerns, although Mr. Bridge, an in-depth portrayal of India...
(The entire section is 818 words.)