book cover of The Writer as Illusionist

The Writer as Illusionist

Uncollected & Unpublished Work
A collection of stories by

“Illuminating . . . Handling strong emotions—shame, love, grief—without fuss, Maxwell gives the bald facts of life a poignant shimmer.”—Wall Street Journal

As a fiction editor at
The New Yorker from 1936 to 1975, William Maxwell helped shaped several generations’ sense of the literary short story. At the same time, Maxwell himself was also an exceptional novelist, short story writer, essayist, children’s author, and memoirist.

Given unique, unfettered access to Maxwell’s private papers, Alec Wilkson—whose memoir
My Mentor explores his twenty-five-year friendship with Maxwell—has gathered a stunning and revealing collection of some of Maxwell’s lesser-known and previously unpublished works of nonfiction and fiction.

The Writer as Illusionist includes biographical sketches; remembrances of fellow authors, such as the poet Louise Bogan and short story writer Maeve Brennan; a 1941 nonfiction piece about Bermuda that was the only piece of long reporting Maxwell ever published in The New Yorker; and Maxwell’s thoughts on the craft of writing, many of them made privately.

While Maxwell often said he never kept a journal because anything worth writing about was something a writer would remember,
The Writer as Illusionist proves otherwise: included are many notes from his private journals, including some that became parts of his revered novels, such as The Folded Leaf.

Re-reading Maxwell’s work leads Wilkinson to think “I am still often amazed—at the subtlety of the art, the depth of what he saw, at his capacity for dramatizing situations that require a rare hand and eye.”

Maxwell passed away in 2000 at the age of ninety-one.
The Writer as Illusionist celebrates his legacy in American letters and is part of Godine’s Nonpareil series.
Genre: Literary Fiction

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