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Tag Archives: The New Yorker

William Maxwell – marvelous editor and writer

Wm Maxwell

Today I’d like to recommend a wonderful writer, William Keepers Maxwell, (1908-2000) whose work I have been immersed in. I knew he was a distinguished editor; he was at The New Yorker from 1936 to 1975, and was the editor of such luminaries as Salinger, John Cheever, Frank O’Connor and Eudora Welty. He was a quiet man who did little to promote himself or his own work. He cared about editing in an old-fashioned way and practiced it with dedication. I recently read a big volume of his early novels and stories (published by Library of America), which is excellent. At his best, I think he is as good as Cheever, which is high praise. One of Maxwell’s better known stories that was published in the New Yorker is “The Thistles in Sweden,” a masterpiece. He is very good at elegiac descriptions of the past and evocations of worlds that don’t exist any more, such as France shortly after World War II. His humor is dry and his observations of people are fascinating. Maxwell’s literary reputation has apparently grown since his death. I highly recommend his stories and novels to you. Benjamin Cheever said of Maxwell’s carefully crafted prose, “…it can be read like poetry.”

Lists of great and not-so-great books

books happiness

I’ve always been a list maker and bookworm, so book lists appeal to me. The New York Times has a useful “best books of the year” list, this year with an animated video of their top ten (www.nytimes.com/video/books/review). NPR rolled out a Book Concierge that lists 200 of the best 2013 books by category (www.npr.org/best-books-2013). MPBN has a “best and overlooked books of 2013” list chosen by some prominent Maine writers.
I recommend a site called Interesting Literature (www.interestingliterature.com) which has a wealth of intelligent lists and blogs about books and writers. Sometimes I find the highly personal book lists people make on Amazon useful, though they can be quirky and bizarre, too. For book reviews by regular folks, Amazon has the biggest collection, but Goodreads has a lot, too.
One can, of course, wander around on these sites and spend/waste hours, but they do lead me to discover books I want to read. For a while I had a gift subscription to the very worthy and erudite London Review of Books, but it came too frequently and was too jam-packed with information and opinions. If you have limited time, I think the book recommendations by The New York Times, The New Yorker and The Guardian are generally reliable. But you probably have your favorites, too.