William Maxwell

I have too many books to read right now. This is my usual condition, but it’s particularly acute right now since my visits to the library this afternoon. I say visits because I had requested books from two different libraries. This abundance of reading material is pleasing rather than disheartening. I couldn’t wait to get home with my stash. Here’s what I’ve been dipping into.

My book group chose So Long, See You Tomorrow by William Maxwell for this month’s discussion, at my recommendation. I reread this lovely novella a couple of days ago, having checked it out from the Cleveland State library, but now I’m on a quest to read more Maxwell and more about him. The Book That Changed My Life, edited by Roxanne J. Cody and Joy Johannessen, offers essays by “71 remarkable writers” who “celebrate the books that matter most to them.” Steward O’Nan selected So Long, and I’ve already read his brief essay. Maxwell is generally revered by writers, for his conciseness, his compassion, and his creative approach to narration.  I’m looking forward to reading more of the essays in the collection: poet Billy Collins on Lolita and The Yearling, Elizabeth Berg on The Catcher in the Rye, Frank McCourt on Henry VIII, and so on. This will be fun to dip into.

The second volume of Karl Ove Knausgaard’s My Struggle, at 573 pages, will require more plunging than dipping. This weirdly mesmerizing memoir may not get finished, especially since other people are breathing down my neck, hoping to tackle this Norwegian themselves. Karl will either fascinate you or annoy you. Check out the first volume to see which group you belong to.

I may not finish & Sons by David Gilbert, for the same reasons: it’s long (434 pages) and, because other people are waiting for it, I won’t be allowed to renew it. I requested this novel because my niece, a good reader and reliable recommender, suggested I read it. Its excellent first sentence, “Once upon a time, the moon had a moon,” is calling to me.

I picked up Framing Innocence: A Mother’s Photographs, a Prosecutor’s Zeal, and a Small Town’s Response because its Oberlin author, Lynn Powell, is in my writing group. This 2010 work reports on a case you may remember, about a mom who got in trouble for photographing her daughter in the nude. It looks to be a thorough and compassionate account.

Like lots of my friends, I hear about intriguing books on NPR. A fan of Linda Ronstadt, I heard her interviewed on Terry Gross’s Fresh Air, where she talked about her new memoir Simple Dreams. It’s full of good photos, and a quick perusal offered a tantalizing sample of interesting anecdotes.

Let’s end where we began, with the redoubtable William Maxwell. Barbara Burkhardt’s William Maxwell: a Literary Life promises to slake my curiosity about this quiet and compassionate writer.

I haven’t even mentioned the books I should be reading for school. But enough about my to-do list. What are you reading, and, more important, how is it?



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3 Responses to Abundance

  1. Kathy says:

    I also loved “They Came Like Swallows.” I’m reading “The Chateau” right now and am enjoying it but not quite as much. So glad you stumbled here! Please keep reading, Anne!

  2. Anne Steel says:

    How extraordinary that I stumbled on your blog today. I finished So, Long See You Tomorrow yesterday! I was checking my list of the next Wm. Kent Krueger book to order from the library and saw I had not ordered The Book that Changed My Life and googled it and found your blog. I relished Maxwell’s work and will order another along with the Per Petterson recommended above. Thanks for a great way to start the day!

  3. Jamie Kaplan says:

    You might also like “I Curse the River of Time,” by Per Petterson if you don’t know it already. Glad your group is doing maxwell, a favorite of mine. And, yes, hooray for the Nobel to A.M.!

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