Friday, August 6, 2010

First Friday Author Feature: William Maxwell

William Maxwell, born in 1908, was fiction editor at the New Yorker for forty years. (He shaped the work of writers such as John Updike, who wrote about Maxwell for the magazine here.) He was also the author of six novels, as well short stories, a memoir and literary criticism. In 2008, the Library of America published a centennial two-volume collection of his work, eight years after he died.

Maxwell often wrote about small town America from the turn of the century, when the "unhurried" life of  horse and buggy left "time for brooding and thought... and time for telling stories." He claimed 75% of his subject matter came from his childhood memories.

In the following 1995 NPR interview with Terry Gross, Maxwell discusses the interior lives of characters -- what Gross refers to as "the territory of writers"). He distinguishes the inner life (a repetitious mirror) from the external one (involvement and activity) and speaks about writing, memory and old age. "Everything that's happened to me is there," he says. "It's a matter of unhooking it and bringing it out to the light."

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