Book of Interest: Conversations with William Maxwell


Barbara Burkhardt, who wrote William Maxwell: A Literary Life (University of Mississippi Press, 2005) has edited Conversations with William Maxwell (University of Mississippi Press,  June, 2012.

Maxwell, who joined The New Yorker in 1936, was originally hired as a hand holder for the Artists, taking over from Wolcott Gibbs, who had tired of the task.  The job required Maxwell to act as a bridge between the editors and the artists (with the exception of Peter Arno and Helen Hokinson, who were handled by Katharine White).  In an interview with John Seabrook for The Paris Review (No. 82, Fall 1982), Maxwell said:

It was called “seeing artists.” The first time they paraded in one after another I was struck by the fact that they all looked like the people in their drawings.





A family member texted me this morning and asked if I was “going to write something about Updike today?”  I wrote back, asking if it was his birthday, and while waiting for her answer, Googled “Updike.”

John Hoyer Updike  (March 18, 1932 – January 27, 2009)

Oh. Thud.

I’m slowly making my way through Higher Gossip: Essays and Criticism. Slowly, because in the back of my mind I know that once I finish the book then…what?  It’s tough to lose a favorite writer, to know the addiction (but not the love) must come to an end. There’ll be more books;  the second volume of his collected short stories must surely be in the pipeline. And there’s a biography reportedly in the works – that’ll help.

With someone like Updike, who published so much, it might seem selfish for a reader to want more, but still, it’s difficult to accept that he’s not typing away at his desk in Massachusetts at this very moment.