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Lincoln, Illinois

William Fiennes, 6 March 1997

All the Days and Nights: The Collected Stories 
by William Maxwell.
Harvill, 415 pp., £10.99, January 1997, 1 86046 308 8
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So Long, See You Tomorrow 
by William Maxwell.
Harvill, 135 pp., £8.99, January 1997, 9781860463075
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... In America, William Maxwell is something of a Grand Old Man. He has been president of the National Institute of Arts and Letters. He has won the American Book Award and the PEN/Malamud Award. For forty years, as a fiction editor on the New Yorker, he advised and goaded Nabokov, Eudora Welty, John Cheever and John Updike ...

Keeping warm

Penelope Fitzgerald, 30 December 1982

Letters of Sylvia Townsend Warner 
Chatto, 311 pp., £15, October 1982, 0 7011 2603 5Show More
The Portrait of a Tortoise 
by Gilbert White and Sylvia Townsend Warner.
Virago, 63 pp., £3.50, October 1981, 0 86068 218 8
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Sylvia Townsend Warner: Collected Poems 
edited by Claire Harman.
Carcanet, 290 pp., £9.95, July 1982, 0 85635 339 6
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Scenes of Childhood and Other Stories 
by Sylvia Townsend Warner.
Chatto, 177 pp., £6.50, September 1981, 0 7011 2516 0
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... be published, indeed she sensibly provided for it. ‘I love reading Letters myself,’ she told William Maxwell, her literary executor, ‘and I can imagine enjoying my own.’ She was born in 1893, an only child. Her father was a Harrow master, who, in a way not very complimentary to his profession (but quite right for STW), never sent her to ...

Short Cuts

Christopher Tayler: The School of Life, 19 May 2011

... who’d studied Henry James with Tony Tanner. She sent me some promising recommendations – William Maxwell, Rohinton Mistry – but I wondered if nearly £2 a minute wasn’t pushing it. (Phone consultations, at £40, are cheaper.) I asked a friend who’d taught a class there about the School of Life. My friend said that it was like watching ...

As for the Brioches

Clarence Brown, 2 November 1995

Out of Egypt 
by André Aciman.
Farrar, Straus, 302 pp., $23, January 1995, 0 374 22833 7
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... but of tongue-lessness. If deprivation is the sine qua non of a writer, as the great editor William Maxwell recently said, then the mother’s physical deficit was an ample lack for the son. In describing his situation he is unsparing of everyone’s sensibilities, including those of the reader: ‘the sound of her shriek would not go away ... it ...

Fairyland

Bruce Bawer, 2 May 1985

Invented Lives: F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald 
by James Mellow.
Souvenir, 569 pp., £15.95, February 1985, 0 285 65001 7
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Home before Dark: A Personal Memoir of John Cheever 
by Susan Cheever.
Weidenfeld, 243 pp., £10.95, January 1985, 0 297 78376 9
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... describes Fitzgerald’s devotion to the Princeton honour code (expressed in a letter to Maxwell Perkins) as ‘idealistic’, Mellow juxtaposes Fitzgerald’s letter with some pretty impressive bits of evidence that, honour code or no, would appear to suggest that Fitzgerald cheated on tests while at college. Time and again, then, Mellow provides a ...

What makes a waif?

Joanne O’Leary, 13 September 2018

The Long-Winded Lady: Tales from the ‘New Yorker’ 
by Maeve Brennan.
Stinging Fly, 215 pp., £10.99, January 2017, 978 1 906539 59 7
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Maeve Brennan: Homesick at the ‘New Yorker’ 
by Angela Bourke.
Counterpoint, 360 pp., $16.95, February 2016, 978 1 61902 715 2
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The Springs of Affection: Stories 
by Maeve Brennan.
Stinging Fly, 368 pp., £8.99, May 2016, 978 1 906539 54 2
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... became engaged to the playwright and theatre critic Walter Kerr. He broke her heart. (Years later William Shawn told a colleague that Kerr would never write for the New Yorker ‘because of Maeve’.) In 1941, Brennan moved to Manhattan and soon found work at Harper’s Bazaar, where she stayed for seven years, rising through the ranks from a copywriter to an ...

The Life of Henri Grippes

Jonathan Coe, 18 September 1997

Selected Stories 
by Mavis Gallant.
Bloomsbury, 887 pp., £25, April 1997, 0 7475 3251 6
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... in the New Yorker, where Gallant has been offered a regular platform under the benign aegis of William Maxwell and, later, David Menaker. Although they span almost half a century – the earliest was published in 1953, the latest in 1995, Gallant’s 73rd year – they are nonetheless eerily consistent in voice and preoccupation. Gallant writes about ...

Did You Have Bombs?

Deborah Friedell: ‘The Other Elizabeth Taylor’, 6 August 2009

The Other Elizabeth Taylor 
by Nicola Beauman.
Persephone, 444 pp., £15, April 2009, 978 1 906462 10 9
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... years, the New Yorker published nearly every story she finished, 35 of them between 1948 and 1969. William Maxwell claimed that job applicants were given her stories to edit as a test, ‘and if they touched a hair of its head, by God, they were no editors’. There wasn’t much to tinker with: her style was spare, usually shorn of adverbs and ...

Blame Robert Maxwell

Frederick Wilmot-Smith: How Public Inquiries Go Wrong, 17 March 2016

... This is the process, named after a legal battle involving the disgraced media mogul Robert Maxwell, whereby those criticised in the first draft of a report are given an opportunity to respond. Chilcot hoped to begin this process in 2013, but negotiations over the publication of minutes of cabinet meetings and the correspondence between Tony Blair and ...

At the End of a Dirt Road

Thomas Powers: The Salinger File, 24 October 2019

The Catcher in the Rye, Nine Stories, Franny and Zooey, Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters and Seymour – an Introduction 
by J.D. Salinger.
Little, Brown, 1072 pp., $100, November 2018, 978 0 316 45071 3
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... But about his relationship to the New Yorker, where he worked very closely with the editor, William Shawn, he cared a great deal. Shawn was the man who allowed the impossible to happen – like giving over the bulk of an entire issue of the magazine to ‘Hapworth 16, 1924’. On last-minute, minor matters Shawn was assisted by the fiction editor, ...

Out of a job in Aberdeen

Roger Penrose, 26 September 1991

The Scientific Letters and Papers of James Clerk Maxwell 
edited by P.M. Harman.
Cambridge, 748 pp., £125, November 1990, 0 521 25625 9
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... James Clerk Maxwell, a Scotsman who lived from 1831 to 1879, was a scientist of outstanding stature. Bearing his name, apart from the famous ‘demon’, is the set of fundamental equations that he discovered, governing the behaviour of electricity, magnetism and light. He also found, among many other things, the basic equation for the distribution of velocities of the molecules in a gas in equilibrium, and made other profound contributions to the statistical study of the molecules in a gas, relating to the Second Law of thermodynamics – which is what Maxwell’s ‘demon’ was all about ...

Entranced by the Factory

Simon Schaffer: Maxwell’s Demon, 29 April 1999

The Natural Philosophy of James Clerk Maxwell 
by P.M. Harman.
Cambridge, 232 pp., £35, April 1998, 0 521 56102 7
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... in 1873 to join a new society for metropolitan physicists, the Cambridge professor James Clerk Maxwell set out in his witty way the practical philosophy of this public science. He thought soirées were like clouds of gas particles: they allowed buttonholing only during the brief if violent collisions of their participants. Lecture-rooms were ...

All the Cultural Bases

Ian Sansom, 20 March 1997

Moon Country: Further Reports from Iceland 
by Simon Armitage and Glyn Maxwell.
Faber, 160 pp., £7.99, November 1996, 0 571 17539 2
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... to Lord Byron’, but also a number of other putative letters (to Richard Crossman and William Coldstream, for instance), MacNeice’s ‘Eclogue from Iceland’, the famously camp prose-piece ‘Hetty to Nancy’, and the joint-authored ‘Last Will and Testament’. According to Auden, MacNeice wrote about eighty of the 240 pages (the review in ...

Breeding

Frank Kermode, 21 July 1994

The Diaries of Sylvia Townsend Warner 
edited by Claire Harman.
Chatto, 384 pp., £25, June 1994, 0 7011 3659 6
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Sylvia and David: The Townsend Warner/Garnett Letters 
Sinclair-Stevenson, 246 pp., £20, June 1994, 1 85619 341 1Show More
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... feminism has proved of interest to the second wave, and much of her work has been republished. William Maxwell, a friend and correspondent who was for years her editor at the New Yorker, published a selection of her letters in 1982, and Claire Harman, having edited the Collected Poems in 1983, published a good biography in 1989. Wendy Mulford’s ...

Prince of Darkness

Ian Aitken, 28 January 1993

Rupert Murdoch 
by William Shawcross.
Chatto, 616 pp., £18.99, September 1992, 0 7011 8451 5
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... This line of reasoning should, in logic, lead me to express admiration for the subject of William Shawcross’s enormous biography. For Rupert Murdoch is arguably the most successful, and certainly one of the most ruthlessly interfering, media moguls in the history of the world. Moreover, he shares Lord Beaverbrook’s colonial iconoclasm about the ...

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