Maxwell, William Keepers, Jr.

Maxwell, William Keepers, Jr., 1908–2000, American novelist, short-story writer, and editor, b. Lincoln, Ill. Educated at the Univ. of Illinois and Harvard, he began his career as a teacher, but soon turned to writing. In his fiction the discreet and courtly Maxwell often handled such traditional themes as growing up and the impact of death with a deft, spare, and gentle realism, frequently setting his tales in the early-20th-cent. Midwest of his youth. His six novels include Bright Center of Heaven (1934), They Came like Swallows (1937), Time Will Darken It (1948), and So Long, See You Tomorrow (1980). His stories are collected in All the Days and Nights (1995) and his essays in The Outermost Dream (1989). Maxwell also wrote children's stories and a memoir, Ancestors (1972). As the superb and subtle fiction editor of the New Yorker for 40 years (1936–76), he helped to shape the work of many of the century's finest writers, including Vladimir Nabakov, John Updike, J. D. Salinger, John Cheever, Flannery O'Connor, Frank O'Hara, Eudora Welty, and Isaac Bashevis Singer.

See biography by B. Burkhardt (2005); M. Steinman, ed., The Element of Lavishness: Letters of Sylvia Townsend Warner and William Maxwell, 1938–1978 (2001); C. Baxter et al., ed., A William Maxwell Portrait (2004).

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