Cover image for A William Maxwell portrait : memories and appreciations
A William Maxwell portrait : memories and appreciations
Baxter, Charles, 1947-
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : W.W. Norton & Co., [2004]

Physical Description:
234 pages ; 22 cm
Format :


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PS3525.A9464 Z97 2004 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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William Maxwell, who died in July 2000, was revered as one of the twentieth century's great American writers and a longtime fiction editor at The New Yorker. Now writers who knew Maxwell and were inspired by him--both the man and his work--offer intimate essays, most specifically written for this volume, that "bring him back to life, right there in front of us."Alec Wilkinson writes of Maxwell as mentor; Edward Hirsch remembers him in old age; Charles Baxter illuminates the magnificent novel So Long, See You Tomorrow; Ben Cheever recalls Maxwell and his own father; Donna Tartt vividly describes Maxwell's kindness to herself as a first novelist; and Michael Collier admires him as a supreme literary correspondent. Other appreciations include insightful pieces by Alice Munro, Anthony Hecht, a poem by John Updike, and a brief tribute from Paula Fox. Ending this splendid collection is Maxwell himself, in the unpublished speech "The Writer as Illusionist."

Author Notes

Charles Baxter's most recent novels are Saul and Patsy and The Feast of Love, which was a finalist for the National Book Award. He lives in Minneapolis and teaches at the University of Minnesota
Michael Collier's most recent book of poems, The Ledge, was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize. He directs the Bread Loaf Writers' Conference and teaches at the University of Maryland
Edward Hirsch, a MacArthur Fellow, has published six books of poems, most recently Lay Back the Darkness. He is president of the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation and lives in New York City

Reviews 2

Publisher's Weekly Review

"When writing about William Maxwell it is easy to make him sound saintly," declares poet Collier. As an award-winning novelist and short story writer and a 40-year New Yorker editor (working with such luminaries as Eudora Welty, John Hersey and John Cheever), Maxwell, who died four years ago at age 92, had much-valued friendships with younger writers, including contributors Donna Tartt, Ben Cheever, Alec Wilkinson, Richard Bausch, Shirley Hazzard, Edward Hirsch and Annabel Davis-Goff (who movingly recalls reading War and Peace to him in his final weeks). Though affectionate and sometimes slightly awestruck, this personal portrait of a scrupulously decent man is necessarily incomplete. While the emphasis is on Maxwell's later years as well as the Midwestern childhood that formed the basis for his fiction, other events, such as a suicide attempt, are only touched on. His fiction receives far fuller investigation: Charles Baxter examines the uniqueness of So Long, See You Tomorrow among autobiographical fiction, and Alice Munro describes a passage by Maxwell as "done with great care and intensity, so that we feel the intensity but not the care." The closing contribution fittingly comes from Maxwell himself. His 1955 college lecture "The Writer as Illusionist" illustrates the sensibility that endeared him as an editor to the contributors here. (Aug.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Edited by novelist Baxter and poets Michael Collier and Edward Hirsch, this collection of essays celebrates the life and work of William Maxwell, who died in 2000 at age 92. Maxwell worked with many notable writers (e.g., John Cheever, J.D. Salinger, and Eudora Welty) during his 40 years as fiction editor at The New Yorker and was an acclaimed author of novels based on his Midwestern youth. Here he is remembered by three generations of writers, featuring tributes and anecdotes by Donna Tartt, Alice Munro, Paula Fox, and Alec Wilkinson. There are pieces on Maxwell's love of correspondence, analyses of his novels So Long, See You Tomorrow, and Time Will Darken It, and Annabel Davis-Goff's moving account of reading War and Peace to Maxwell during his final days. Maxwell's own 1955 speech, "The Writer as Illusionist," appears at the conclusion. This book is a fitting tribute to a great man of letters. Readers seeking more biographical details should consider Alec Wilkinson's My Mentor: A Young Writer's Friendship with William Maxwell. For larger public and academic libraries.-Ben Bruton, Murray State Univ., KY (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.