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Literature

Ethan Canin's 'A Doubters Almanac' is a blazingly intelligent novel

Ethan Canin's 'A Doubters Almanac' is a blazingly intelligent novel

Halfway through Ethan Canin's weighty, blazingly intelligent new novel, his main character, a brilliant, flamed-out mathematician, tells his 12-year-old son that when it comes to success, determination trumps talent. Milo Andret urges his son — who unfortunately has inherited his mathematical abilities and liabilities — to repeat after him: "The will is everything. I will never give up." The boy adamantly refuses. The father wheedles him, to no avail. Faced with his son's persistent intransigence, Canin writes, Milo "thought for a moment. Then he smiled. 'Good,' he said."

This head-butting interchange encapsulates Canin's nuanced handling of the...

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