Ethan Canin’s ‘A Doubter’s Almanac’

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Novelist Ethan Canin on the story of a gifted mathematician cursed by his gift, and the burdens of wild talent.

A portion of the cover of Ethan Canin's new novel, "A Doubter's Almanac." (Courtesy the Publisher / Penguin Random House)
A portion of the cover of Ethan Canin's new novel, "A Doubter's Almanac." (Courtesy the Publisher / Penguin Random House)

In novelist Ethan Canin’s new tale of higher math and the minds that pursue it, genius is not free. The mathematical genius of the Andret family comes with a price. It is powerful. It is also seen as an inherited curse. It can crack open mysteries. It can tear apart families. It can be lost in a lifetime from the weight of its own demands and ambitions. This hour  On Point, the power, burden and fragility of genius, in Ethan Canin’s novel “A Doubter’s Almanac.”
-- Tom Ashbrook


Ethan Canin, novelist, professor and author. Author of the new book, "A Doubter's Almanac." Professor of English at the Iowa Writers' Workshop. Also author of "Carry Me Across the Water" and "America, America," among others.

From Tom’s Reading List

New York Times: ‘A Doubter’s Almanac,’ by Ethan Canin -- "Canin writes beautifully about Andret’s encounters with the great difficulties of mathematics. At the same time, he shows how this work is marbled with adolescent competitiveness and egotism. To solve a certain conjecture in the 1970s, racing against a 14-year-old opponent, Andret purloins a personal computer (which, anachronistically, runs the C++ language). Seeking solace after a failure, he turns to his stable of women. A heaving, hot breath is involved."

Washington Post: Ethan Canin’s ‘A Doubter’s Almanac’: Math made beautiful — "There’s no reason to assume any particular autobiographical relevance to this story, but Canin has certainly conducted enough field research on academic strivers and stars. He’s the son of a celebrated violinist and professor of music, he graduated from Harvard Medical School, and he teaches at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. He’s well equipped to factor even the most complex expression of intellectual ambition down to its primes."

Los Angeles Times: Ethan Canin's 'A Doubters Almanac' is a blazingly intelligent novel — "Beginning with his earliest books, Canin has demonstrated an almost uncanny ability to capture the complexities of fraternal bonds and rivalry. 'A Doubter's Almanac' features two generations of jockeying but relatively supportive brother-sister pairs who have inherited, to different degrees, Milo Andret's cerebral gifts along with some of his behavioral quirks. But the narrative's primary focus is on the enormous, punishing pressure of exceptionality on individuals rather than competition between siblings."

Read An Excerpt Of "A Doubter's Almanac" By Ethan Canin

This program aired on March 1, 2016.


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