Canin, Ethan. The Palace Thief: Stories. New York: Random House, 1994.
What can I say about The Palace Thief that hasn’t been said before? The writing is brilliant. Being only 202 pages long I burned through it in a matter of days. The Palace Thief is comprised of four short stories, Accountant, Batorsag and Szerelem, City of Broken Hearts and The Palace Thief. Each story centers around a main character who is always male, always a little egocentric, always misguided, and always more than a little lonely and misunderstood. Canin’s style is to give you a peep show sampling of these characters and the lives try to lead. As the reader you are allowed only a negotiated proximity to what really makes each man tick. It’s teasing and tantalizing and because the stories are that good you find yourself forgiving Mr. Canin for this.
I don’t think this is a spoiler of any sort to question if Canin speaks Hungarian on a regular basis.
Favorite line: From City of Broken Hearts: “It was just that Wilson could never figure out when it was all right to ask” (p 112). Wilson is a man too wrapped up in his own selfishness and vanity to understand his philanthropic son. This line resonated with me because I know we have all had family members we want to grill but we never seem to figure out when is the best time (if ever).
Author Fact: Ethan Andrew Canin has no shortage of occupations. When he isn’t writing he is teaching…or practicing medicine. Biographies claim he has a BA in English or a BA in Engineering from Stanford (hey, both degrees start with ‘eng’).
Book Trivia: Two of the short stories were made into movies. Batorsag and Szerelem was made into a movie called ‘Beautiful Ohio’ in 2006 and the title story, Palace Thief was made into a movie called “The Emperor’s Club” in 2002. I have yet to see either one.
BookLust Twist: From Book Lust in the chapter called “Growing Writers” (p 107).