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For Kings and Planets

A Novel

Ethan Canin

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Ethan Canin is one of America's finest writers.  He has been called "brilliant" by the Los Angeles Times, "a tremendous talent" by the Chicago Sun-Times, and "dazzling" by Walker Percy.  The bestselling author of The Palace Thief and Emperor of the Air now gives us this stunning new novel, For Kings and Planets.

"Years later, Orno Tarcher would think of his days in New York as a seduction.  A seduction and a near miss, a time when his memory of the world around him --the shining stone stairwells, the taxicabs, the sea of nighttime lights--was glinting and of heroic proportion.  Like a dream."  So begins this remarkable novel about the lives of two young men and the women they love.

Orno Tarcher arrives in New York City from a small town in Missouri, feeling unsophisticated and disadvantaged by his family's bedrock values.  He meets Marshall Emerson, the charismatic gem of a worldly family, a seductive and brilliant New Yorker who is revealed, as time passes, to be bent on destruction.  The novel explores with depth and sophistication the conflicts of character at the heart of every life, the desire for grandeur and the lure of normalcy, the tension between rivalry and friendship, fathers and sons, love and betrayal.  For Kings and Planets is the story of a man  who thinks of himself as moral, who tests his character against power, deception, and seduction.  It is also the story of a friendship fractured by love.

For Kings and Planets is a remarkable achievement, another fiction classic by the writer who has been called "a worthy successor to...Philip Roth, Elizabeth Bishop, and Robert Penn Warren."

Publishers Weekly Review

Aug 03, 1998 – Many qualities that make a novel masterful are present in Canin's fourth book: richly nuanced characterizations, a sensuous sense of place, easy dialogue, controlled pacing and a story that is a classic parable of the human condition. The narrative vigor of this coming-of-age tale is enhanced by Canin's (Emperor of the Air; The Palace Thief) compassionate view of daunting moral complexities and by his acute sensibility about the strengths and flaws that can determine the future of a promising life. When Oren Tarcher comes to Columbia University from a tiny Midwestern town, another freshman, sophisticated New Yorker Marshall Emerson, befriends him. The friendship is unlikely: Oren is earnest, naive, plodding ("He felt the word Missouri written on his forehead"), while Marshall, the son of two eminent Columbia professors, is charming, cynical, brilliant and possessed of an astonishing eidetic memory that indelibly records everything he's ever read. Oren is further awed when he meets the rest of Marshall's family, though he is disturbed by the rancorous exchanges between Professor Emerson and his son. Though Marshall abandons him for months at a time, Oren is always freshly seduced when his mercurial friend lures him from diligent study to debauched gatherings and sexual liaisons, bringing Oren into contact with something chaotic and undisciplined in his own nature. Even when he understands Marshall's essential vulnerability and begins to fathom Marshall's manipulative and self-destructive behavior, Oren is envious of his friend's undoubtedly spectacular future. Oren himself is for a long time unable to find his own vocation, but he finally muddles into dentistry, where--as he apologizes to Marshall, who has quit college to write a novel--teeth are "not named for kings or planets. They are merely numbers." By the time Marshall adopts the dissolute life of a major Hollywood producer, Oren has fallen in love with his sister, Simone, and is witness to the last acts of a family tragedy. While the plot unfolds with tragic inevitability, Canin doesn't force the pace of his narrative, subtly providing Oren with insights appropriate to his strong moral upbringing and slow maturation. Meanwhile, he creates a rich gallery of characters and offers a potently atmospheric evocation of New York City and, to a lesser extent, small communities in Cape Cod and Maine. What will most impress readers of this engrossing narrative, however, is the dignity and integrity with which Canin writes about fallible human lives. BOMC and QPB selections; author tour.
For Kings and Planets
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  • $11.99
  • Available on iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Mac.
  • Category: Literary
  • Published: Aug 11, 1998
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Seller: Random House, LLC
  • Print Length: 352 Pages
  • Language: English
  • Requirements: To view this book, you must have an iOS device with iBooks 1.3.1 or later and iOS 4.3.3 or later, or a Mac with iBooks 1.0 or later and OS X 10.9 or later.

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