The Writer's Life: Film & Book Reviews, Observations, and Stories
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So Long, See You Tomorrow


When I asked the staff at my local book emporium about favorite novels, one of the clerks, who normally responds only in monosyllables, thought for a long moment and said that his most beloved novel was So Long, See You Tomorrow by William Maxwell. Giving him a look of ironic wonderment (because he seemed like he was trying to birth an egg), I said I’d never heard of William Maxwell. He replied that Maxwell was a longtime editor at The New Yorker, where he worked with such writers as Nabokov, Updike, J.D. Salinger, and John Cheever. I was impressed, because editing luminaries like Updike or Salinger would be problematic, at best. I bought the novel on the spot.

I didn’t like the novel at first. It was a jumble of disconnected remembrances with no emotional connection between them. But, of course, I soldiered on, having spent good money on the book. Besides, it was only 144 pages long.

It wasn’t until about a third of the way through the novel that I finally got interested, and by the time I’d reached the end, I was hanging on every word. The kaleidoscopic scenes and dialogue, which at first seemed disparate and unconnected, gradually coalesced into a gestalt of power and drama. I won’t give a synopsis of the plot (which you can find on the web), except to say that it involves the rawest of emotions told in a spare and unique style that earned the novel an American Book Award. Go buy it.