Known as a beloved, longtime fiction editor at The New Yorker, William Maxwell worked closely with such legendary writers as Vladimir Nabokov, John Updike, Mary McCarthy, and John Cheever. His own novels include They Came Like Swallows and the American Book Award-winning So Long, See You Tomorrow, and many consider him to be one of the twentieth century's most important writers. Barbara Burkhardt's William Maxwell: A Literary Life represents the first major critical study of this Illinois writer's life and work.
Writing with an economy and elegance befitting her subject, Burkhardt addresses Maxwell's highly autobiographical fiction by skillfully interweaving his biography with her own critical interpretations. She contextualizes his fiction in terms of events including his mother's early death from influenza, his marriage, and the role of his psychoanalysis under the guidance of Theodor Reik. Drawing on a wide range of previously unavailable material, Burkhardt includes letters Maxwell received from authors such as Eudora Welty and Louise Bogan, excerpts from his unpublished manuscripts and correspondence, and her own interviews with Maxwell and key figures from his life, including John Updike, Roger Angell, New Yorker fiction editor Robert Henderson, and Maxwell's family and friends.