Today we mark the birthday of Evan S. Connell, born on this day in 1924, with a timeline of brief milestones in his life and work compiled in a blog post by Steve Paul, author of the forthcoming biography of Evan S. Connell, Literary Alchemist: The Writing Life of Evan S. Connell, which we highlight below, with Paul's permission. Connell, a writer who didn’t much want to be known, produced a remarkable range of literature in his six decades of publishing. His towering and best-known achievements are Mrs. Bridge, a minimalist gem of a novel that instantly draws readers into the all-too-familiar world of a prosperous Midwestern family defined by suppressed emotions, and Son of the Morning Star, a lyrical, sweeping and indelible account of the nation’s war with Native Americans and the demise of Gen. George Armstrong Custer and his troops in the Battle of the Little Bighorn. Connell was a product of the Midwest who led a relatively quiet life driven mostly by the need to write and by his passions for women and art.
Brief milestones in the life and work of a writer. For the details see my book, Literary Alchemist: The Writing Life of Evan S. Connell (University of Missouri Press, December 2021)
Aug. 17, 1924: Evan Shelby Connell Jr. is born to Dr. Evan Shelby Connell and (Ruth) Elton Williamson Connell in Kansas City, Missouri. The family lives at 210 W. 66th Street in a Brookside district neighborhood developed by J.C. Nichols.
May 1937: Graduates from Border Star Elementary School, which promoted an intensive reading program.
1939: The Connell family moves to 1515 Drury Lane (later renumbered 2215 Drury, after incorporation of Mission Hills, Kansas).
1941: Graduates from Southwest High School and leaves Kansas City for Dartmouth College in New Hampshire. Transcripts reveal him as no more than an average student.
Summer 1942: After flunking chemistry at Dartmouth, takes makeup chemistry courses at William Jewell College in Liberty, Missouri, north of Kansas City.
December 1942: Registers for the military draft: 6-foot-2, 155 pounds.
September 1, 1943: Inducted into the U.S. Naval Air Corps in Mt. Vernon, Iowa.
1943-1945: Naval flight training in Albuquerque, Memphis, Pensacola, Florida, and elsewhere, followed by instructor training in New Orleans. Promoted to Ensign in May 1945. Concludes service August 20, 1945 to November 24, 1945, as flight instructor at the Naval Air Station in Glenview, Illinois.
February 1946: Enrolls for spring semester at the University of Kansas in Lawrence, where he studies English, writing, and art and cements his decision not to follow in his father’s medical footsteps. Among his professors is Ray B. West, editor of the Western Review literary journal.