Read So Long, See You Tomorrow by William Maxwell Online


On an Illinois farm in the 1920s, a man is murdered, and in the same moment the tenous friendship between two lonely boys comes to an end. In telling their interconnected stories, American Book Award winner William delivers a masterfully restrained and magically evocative meditation on the past....

Title : So Long, See You Tomorrow
Author :
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ISBN : 12273647
Format Type : Kindle Edition
Number of Pages : 146 Pages
Status : Available For Download
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So Long, See You Tomorrow Reviews

  • Brina
    2019-03-28 06:43

    Illinois native William Maxwell enjoyed a long, illustrious writing career. As his writing life was winding down, Maxwell penned an autobiographical, coming of age story about how events leading up to and following a murder in his small town of Lincoln, Illinois changed his perceptions of life. Resulting was So Long, See You Tomorrow, a perceptive novella which garnered the American Book Award.Born in 1908, Maxwell enjoyed life in small town Lincoln, Illinois. A farming community in close proximity to the state capitol Springfield, the make up of the town was pretty much homogenous. One was either an in town person or a farmer who only came into town for errands and church. Even the school a one room, one size fits all classroom that went up through the eighth grade. In 1918 tragedy struck. After giving birth to Maxwell's youngest brother, his mother died of pneumonia two days later. His father did not know how to raise three boys on his own, so he sold the house the family had always lived in, and moved to a modest home on the outskirts of town. It was there, that he remarried Maxwell's stepmother Grace McGrath, and at age thirteen, the narrator met companion Cletus Smith, the focal point of this story.Smith had moved into town with his mother following a tragic event that had upset the fabric of the town. Smith's mother was never suited to be a farmer yet she married Clarence Smith because he was available to her as a husband. Eventually, Fern Smith grew disillusioned with her marriage and engaged in an affair with her neighbor Lloyd Wilson. Because Lincoln was a tiny community, the whole town eventually talked about their business, which lead both couples to divorce, the women taking custody of the children. It was in this regard that Maxwell met Smith, and the two became best buddies until Smith's mother moved the family beyond the gossip to Chicago. Later on, Maxwell's father was offered a job opportunity in Chicago, and the family moved there as well. Maxwell and Smith ended up at the same high school, yet despite the closeness they once shared, Smith felt uncomfortable around someone who knew his past, and the two went their separate ways.Fifty years later, Maxwell decided to reconstruct these events and the result was this novella. His writing is gritty, as his thirteen year old protagonist self sets about to dissect how the relations of two families who had once been close ripped apart the fabric of a community. The prose is raw and introspective and while I did not have any emotional attachment to the adults, I felt for the children whose lives had been effected by the poor choices of their parents. These events occurred at a time when children were not exposed to adult conversations and issues. Grappling with adult issues during this era must have caused the Smith and Wilson children much internal turmoil. Even Maxwell could not let the Smith-Wilson affair rest fifty years later and set about through his contacts in the publishing industry to reconstruct it. Only when he discovered the broad scope of the Lincoln tragedy of his childhood through his adult eyes could he let it rest.I found So Long, See You Tomorrow to be a poignant look at how tragedy forces children to grow up too fast, and, unfortunately, this is true in any era. The prose was rich and introspective as Maxwell writes from many points of view to include all the key players in this tragedy. The result was a powerful, coming of age novella that won the 1980 American Book Award. I would like to thank my goodreads friend Carol for referring me to this book though her review because if not, this novella was not even on my radar. I rate this powerful So Long, See You Tomorrow 4 stars, and I will most likely look to read more of Maxwell's work in the future.

  • William1
    2019-03-23 10:37

    This is a little masterpiece of narrative compression. Though only 135 pages long, it can seem at times that whole paragraphs of unwritten backstory are suggested by every line, every image. A rundown of the plot will not give you a sense of the high level of mastery involved here, but here it is anyway. In the early 1920s one married farmer befriends another married farmer then steals his wife. Both marriages break up. The adulterous wife--Fern Smith--sues her husband for divorce and wins on grounds of maltreatment. This poor guy has been used by everyone: his best friend, his wife, and now the court system, since he cannot admit in open court that he has been cuckolded, to use that archaic and somewhat ridiculous term. It's essentially a love-triangle murder mystery without the mystery, since we know from the start who does what. Not so much a whodunit then, as a why-do-it. (Martin Amis'London Fields is a novel of this sort, though vastly different in narrative structure, technique, diction etc.) What's fascinating is William Maxwell's ability to produce gripping suspense even though we know what's going to happen next. I can't figure out how he actually does it. In a letter Hemingway once said, criticizing Faulkner, and here I paraphrase, that true literature, when it works, doesn't give away its methods; that even on second or third reading it somehow transcends its limitations as a text; whereas with Faulkner on a second reading "you can see how he's tricked you." William Maxwell's novella So Long, See You Tomorrow is clearly in that other, loftier, transcendent category.

  • Carol
    2019-03-23 07:25

    This is miniature tour de force…powerful, moving and beautifully written in a spare writing style that evokes a profound sense of place. It’s no secret that this novella is an old man’s recollection of a tragic episode from his childhood…a love triangle and murder in a small, Illinois farm town in the early 1920s. Yet, this story reveals much more than an account of a crime of passion. This slender novel is about childhood memories, nostalgia and dealing with loss, guilt and haunting regrets.Almost everyone in the novel has a point of view. And even though the book deals with shameful and selfish acts of betrayal, I felt sympathy for both of these deeply flawed families. Even the murderer’s farm dog had a POV. I’m not sure what astonished me more…the notion that an abandoned family dog would have a voice in the story or that I found her tale even more painfully gut-wrenching than everyone else in this tragic novel. Finally, this story resonates with me personally…undoubtedly because I’m the granddaughter of Eastern Colorado dry land farmers… and my own parents (contemporaries of this author) lived their whole lives in that small farming community where I grew up. I found myself relating to and reminiscing with this narrator’s past recollections as they conjured up my own familiar memories and family accounts of bygone times.This is a lovely little story…eloquent, pared down and full of heart. I was unfamiliar with this gifted author but I’ll definitely be on the hunt for more of his work!

  • Carol
    2019-04-02 06:29

    So. This novel is indisputably a 5-star book by any criterion. Each sentence is one the current crop of MFA-wielding authors dream of having penned. It becomes only more intense, lyrical, disturbing, resonant as it progresses to its end. These 2 friends' reviews do it justice and are lyrical in their own right. your eye on the title. It reminds the reader that Maxwell's focus is on collateral damage, on the periphery, less on what appears in the center of the viewfinder.There is one subset of readers I need to tip off, though, to a key (IMO) sub-plot. It's difficult to imagine a spoiler alert being necessary with respect to a novel that discloses the last event and its perpetrator early on. And yet, if I had known that (view spoiler)[the dog dies (hide spoiler)], I would not have read it, and I am not alone in avoiding reading that triggers certain memories. My warning for the unsuspecting is, if you won't read Old Yeller, be prepared here. That's it. In every other way novels are appraised, evaluated, measured, SOSYT is perfect for any and every reader.

  • Robin
    2019-04-08 13:22

    Storytellers are liarsJohn Updike said about this novel: "What a lovely book, utterly unlike any other in shape I have ever read."He's right. While the subject matter of this book is not new or particularly original, the form is. The framework of the story is about a murder, yes, but William Maxwell tells us all the salacious details in the first chapter: farmers, neighbours, best friends, Clarence and Lloyd, become mortal enemies when Lloyd has an affair with Clarence's wife. Clarence murders Lloyd.But that is not what the book is about, as I see it. The entire book is a recollection of an old man, a man who had been a young boy at the time of the murder. He had a fleeting but important boyhood friendship with Clarence's son Cletus prior to the murder. Now in old age, he is haunted by the last time he saw his friend. He is preoccupied by how the murder affected Cletus. He wants to see it in his mind's eye, to tell the story as best as he can. He does research by looking at old newspapers, but the facts are limited. He ransacks his memories. But, (and here is the crux of the book) memories are just blurry stories:What we, or at any rate what I, refer to confidently as memory - meaning a moment, a scene, a fact that has been subjected to a fixative and thereby rescued from oblivion - is really a form of storytelling that goes on continually in the mind and often changes with the telling. (...) In any case, in talking about the past we lie with every breath we draw.Having made this point, he tells us the story, in full admission that he is setting a stage, filling the gaps with fiction in his attempt to "reconstruct the testimony that [Cletus] was never called upon to give". He tells the reader "if any part of the following mixture of truth and fiction strikes the reader as unconvincing, he has my permission to disregard it." He directs us to imagine Cletus' story as a deck of cards face down, turning each one over to see various (fictitious?) facets of the boy's experience. The first invention he makes is the dog, the darling dog who has her own heartrending narrative. And he goes forward from there constructing the story with a mixture of these "cards" as well as bits of truth of the story that are well known.The result is a truly lovely book. Maxwell drew me into this lovingly crafted story, a patchwork of truth and lies, one that was designed to give voice to a child's untold story, one that was created to help give peace to an old man's worried heart.

  • Melanie
    2019-03-28 10:38

    Speechless... That was extraordinary.(24 hours later)I knew I was in for something special when I heard Richard Ford saying that this was one of his all-time favourite books but I didn't expect this level of amazement and mastery as I zipped through these 150 pages on a rainy October Sunday. How did someone manage to pack so much humanity in such a tiny work of art? The last time I felt such mind blowing concision was when I read "The Great Gatsby" for the first time. Every single sentence contains an entire world of thought and imagery and sensory detail that burns into your mind like a red-hot iron. The entire story is eerily seamless, moving like water from point of view to point of view, gathering speed like a storm about to burst. Rarely have I felt such emotional rawness and truths expressed in so few words. This is a true feat of the heart and mind.I was also lucky enough to read this masterpiece with a most luminous and intelligent introduction by Ann Patchett. Obviously enamoured with this piece of work, she writes the following:""So Long, See You Tomorrow" is structured not like a novel, but like the inner workings of the human brain. There are no surprises, only a constant circling of facts, the question of how things might have gone differently, the familiar retreat into personal experience. The narrator puts himself into characters he has no connection to, imagines their days, imagines the dog, without apology or explanation. Why has he stepped into someone else's life? Because this is how we try to make sense of the things we cannot possibly understand. It is an exercise in compassion."Ann Patchett chose this novel as one to pass on to future generations. So would I.

  • Katie
    2019-04-20 07:40

    One of the best depictions of the effect on children (and a dog!) of marital discord I’ve ever read. This small book manages to say so much about life across the generations with, at its root, the recognition of the importance of ritual for children and the damage that can ensue when a married couple no longer have anything new to offer each other. Located in rural farmlands in Middle America there were times when I felt dust between my teeth and in my hair so vividly does Maxwell evoke the landscape. The novel hinges on a murder which we hear about in the first chapter. I loved the unusual form of this book. Maxwell approaches his subject from an oblique angle. The narrator is an old man reminiscing. His obsessive interest in the murder is the result of the guilt he feels for snubbing the murderer’s son one day at school. He pieces back together the events that led to the murder from the perspective of all involved. It’s a time honoured story - how a woman comes between two good friends and turns them into enemies. But almost everything about this novel feels fresh. The psychological deterioration of the cuckolded husband is especially powerfully conveyed, culminating when all the raw emotional upheaval he has suffered is belittled and simplified by the legal system during divorce proceedings. Most of all though it’s the children’s dislocation we feel. The prose is as bright and transparent as early morning dew on grass. A fantastic read.

  • Marita
    2019-04-01 10:41

    Sometimes small, apparently insignificant actions can haunt one forever. It could quite simply be something one said or didn’t say. And so it is with the narrator of this story. A horrible event destroys two families, but it is a small, spur of the moment action that causes him regret for the rest of his life.The writing is beautiful, and with few words much is conveyed. #####Note:The narrator says: “What we, or at any rate what I, refer to confidently as memory – meaning a moment, a scene, a fact that has been subjected to a fixative and thereby rescued from oblivion – is really a form of storytelling that goes on continually in the mind and often changes with the telling.” Julian Barnes in his novel The Sense of an Ending expands on this idea.

  • Teresa
    2019-04-11 08:37

    I've said before that the ending of a work can make the work for me, and such is the case here. Not that the beginning wasn't wonderful, it was; in fact, the end reflects back to the beginning, another of my favorite things. And as I approached the end, I lingered over the sentences, rereading them: slight though they may seem, they are so worth it.This slim novel is a perfect example of why a writer writes, how an incident can linger and fester until he works it out of his thoughts and memories, and still it is there, on the page, yes, but not worked out: it has merely become a different entity.(May 20, 2012)Update: A reread finished this evening and a wish fulfilled.(July 19, 2015)Another reread: The other night, rather late, I started reading this, as I felt the need of a ‘comfort’ read, which might seem odd, as this story is so sad. I was struck during this read at Maxwell’s not only working out the death of his mother through his narrator, but also through the character of Cletus (who has not lost his mother). Though it was my third read of this novel, the final chapter lost none of its power: it was just as beautiful and devastating as the first time.(June 5, 2017)

  • Perry
    2019-03-30 11:21

    A Most Vehement Flame"jealousy is cruel as the grave: the coals thereof are coals of fire, which hath a most vehement flame"Solomon 8:6, King James BibleThis short novel about a 1921 murder-suicide in a small Illinois farming town mesmerized me. Written as the recollection of the narrator's friendship with another 14-year-old and his reconstruction of events from newspaper accounts fifty years on after he cannot shake a lingering memory of the last time he saw his friend, whose father killed his mother's lover and then himself. The book is a timeless depiction of the human condition marred by matters of the heart, steeped in imagery of the moors of marital moral dilemmas as neighbors fall in love, she an abused and unhappy mom and he who married young and longs for love, as the author meticulously imagines how the marital betrayals metastasize into a cuckolded husband's mania, the isolation of their son (his friend), the estrangement of her married lover's children, and even the broken heart of the boy's/family's dog. What particularly haunts the narrator though is an event magnified in his mind in a later brief encounter with the friend, after which the friend disappeared from his life.A raw, jarring novel I highly recommend.

  • Sue
    2019-04-18 10:26

    Too many conflicting emotional interests are involved for life ever to be wholly acceptable, and possibly it is the work of the storyteller to rearrange things so that they conform to this end. In any case, in talking about the past we lie with every breath we draw. (p 27)In this shattering, though very simple, piece, Maxwell writes the story of mid-western boys, one looking back on his childhood and remembering the other boy caught up in the vortex of a murder on a farm. The details sound bare, simple, almost trite but Maxwell turns them into a tale of Everyday, Every person, Everywhere. He captures the relationships between people beautifully: the complexity, the guarding, the loves and hates, the hidden feelings and thoughts, the crippling emotions. And he does it with a brilliance of expression.The narrator explains:Looking back, it seems clear enough that Ibrought my difficulties on myself. To begin with, I was as thin as a stick. In any kind of competitive game, my mind froze and I became half paralyzed. (p29)Ah, yes, says the lingering child in each of us. I was there.And there is this image of loss and despair:Take away the pitcher and the bowl, both of themdry and dusty. Take away the cow barn where the cats, sitting all in a row, wait with their mouths wide open for somebody to squirt milk down their throats. Take away the horse barn too--the smell of hay and dust and horse piss and old sweat-stained leather, and the rain beating down on the plowed field beyond the open door. Take all this away and what have you done to him? In the face of a deprivation so great, what is the use of asking him to go on being the boy he was. He might aswell start life over again as some other boy instead. (p 113)This is such a beautiful work in spite of its sadness, because of its ability to capture people in their essence. I know I will read it again. It reminds me of other of my favorite books, such as Housekeeping, because it seems to speak something very essential which I must keep seeking.Very highly recommended.

  • Connie
    2019-04-17 12:45

    William Maxwell wrote a semi-autobiographical novel about two lonely boys whose lives briefly intersect. Although he is now an old man, he still feels guilt that he did not reach out and offer support to his friend after a tragedy.The narrator's life fell apart when his mother died in the influenza epidemic of 1918. His family members each grieved privately, but no one talked about their feelings. It was a difficult time for the sensitive ten-year-old boy.The second great loss occurs a few years later in the Illinois farmland where his friend Cletus resides. Told from multiple points of view, the troubles in two unhappy marriages lead to a love triangle. Passions ignite, friendship is betrayed, and tensions mount. A shot was heard in the second paragraph of the book so the reader knows there will not be a happy ending. The human characters don't always fully express the depth of their feelings. But Cletus' dog vocalizes for the two families as she howls in the night, expressing her feelings of loss and abandonment.Maxwell is best known for his work as the former fiction editor at "The New Yorker". His own writing, using a spare, understated style, certainly packs an emotional punch in this slim volume.

  • Fionnuala
    2019-04-22 05:20

    Written more than forty years after They Came Like Swallows, this book takes up the story of Bunny where it left off in that book. But the name Bunny is not used in this book; he has become the narrator, and he is never given a name, as far as I can recall - I read it very fast, perhaps too fast.Unlike Swallows, this book isn't all about one family but branches out into an almost unrelated story about another couple of families during the same period, 1920s, state of Illinois. Maxwell makes the connection between the two stories well but I was never sure which was the main story, the one about Cletus Smith and his family and neighbours which takes up three-quarters of the book, or the one about the narrator. I have to admit to being a little distracted, as I read, by the framework linking these two stories together but the writing, as in Swallows, is a pleasure. Perhaps I should leave it to William Maxwell to tell you himself exactly how this book came about and what he intended in it. These quotes are from a Paris Review interview, The Art of Fiction, No 71 the case of So Long, See You Tomorrow, I was sitting at my desk, and something made me think of that boy I had failed to speak to, and thinking of him I winced. I saw myself wincing and I thought, “That’s very odd indeed that after all these years you should have a response so acute; maybe that’s worth investigating.” And so that’s what I set out to do.With So Long, See You Tomorrow I felt that in this century the first-person narrator has to be a character and not just a narrative device. So I used myself as the “I” and the result was two stories, my own and Cletus Smith’s, and I knew they had to be structurally combined, but how? One day I was in our house in Westchester County, and I was sitting on the side of the bed putting my shoes on, half stupefied after a nap and thinking, If I sit on the edge of the bed I will ruin the mattress, when my attention was caught by a book. I opened it and read part of a long letter from Giacometti to Matisse describing how he came to do a certain piece of sculpture—Palace at 4 a.m.—it’s in the Museum of Modern Art—and I said, “There’s my novel!” It was as simple as that. But I didn’t know until that moment whether the book would work out or not.Originally the first sentence was, “Very few families escape disasters of one kind or another.” When The New Yorker bought it, the editors were troubled by the fact that for the first twenty pages it read like reminiscence. A good many readers don’t enjoy that sort of thing, and over the years The New Yorker had been blamed for publishing too much of it. Actually, if writers don’t put down what they remember, all sorts of beautiful and moving experiences simply go down the drain forever. In any case, The New Yorker was afraid that readers, seeing also that it was very long, would stop reading before they discovered that it was really about a murder. So I moved things around a bit at the beginning.I was having lunch with Pete Lemay, who was the publicity director at Knopf and is now a playwright, and he said that he had known Willa Cather when he was a young man. I asked what she was like and he told me at some length. It wasn’t what I had assumed and because I was surprised I said, “Whatever made her a writer, do you suppose?” and he said, “Why, what makes anyone a writer—deprivation, of course.” And then he begged my pardon. But I do think it’s deprivation that makes people writers, if they have it in them to be a writer. With Ancestors I thought I was writing an account of my Campbellite forebears and the deprivation didn’t even show up in the first draft, but the high point of the book emotionally turned out to be the two chapters dealing with our family life before and after my mother’s death in the Spanish flu epidemic of 1918. I had written about this before, in They Came Like Swallows and again in The Folded Leaf, where it is fictionalized out of recognition; but there was always something untold, something I remembered from that time. I meant So Long, See You Tomorrow to be the story of somebody else’s tragedy but the narrative weight is evenly distributed between the rifle shot on the first page and my mother’s absence. Now I have nothing more to say about the death of my mother, I think, forever. But it was a motivating force in four books. If my mother turns up again I will be astonished. I may even tell her to go away. But I do not think it will be necessary.A couple of quotes from the book I liked:When I dream about Lincoln it is always the way it was in my childhood. Or rather, I dream that it is that way—for the geography has been tampered with and is half real, half a rearrangement of my sleeping mind.When this picture was taken she was head over heels in love with Tom Evans, but for some reason love, even of the most ardent and soul-destroying kind, is never caught by the lens of the camera. One would almost think it didn’t exist

  • Orsodimondo
    2019-04-08 06:28

    LA PERDITA DELL' INNOCENZA, IL CONFINE DELLA MATURITÀWilliam Maxwell è stato l’editor più importante della rivista The New Yorker dal 1936 al 1975, dall’età di 28 a quella di 67 anni: per tre giorni alla settimana era in redazione a fare l’editor (di gente come Nabokov, Updike, Salinger, Cheever, Isaac Bashevis Singer, Mavis Gallant, Frank O’Connor, Maeve Brennan, Eudora Welty, John O’Hara e altri) e per quattro giorni restava a casa a scrivere la sua letteratura.“So Long, See You Tomorrow”, pubblicato nel 1980, è considerata la sua vetta, un eccellente romanzo breve, descritto dalla Gallant, come un palloncino trattenuto che poi prende il volo.Mi ha fatto tornare in mente Harold Brodkey e i suoi racconti “Primo amore e altri affanni”, gli umori sono molto prossimi.come un palloncino trattenuto che poi prende il voloSi tratta di ricordi che il narratore, all’epoca dei fatti un adolescente, racconta e rivive in modo tutt’altro che lineare, piuttosto simile a un labirinto, assumendo di volta in volta i punti di vista dei diversi personaggi coinvolti, cercando di riempiere spazio e materia emotiva che la memoria tende a lasciar svanire. D’altra parte, la memoria parte fissando un momento del passato, ma poi lavora per così dire in avanti, elaborando, definendo, e anche modificando (Ciò che noi, o perlomeno ciò che io, fiduciosamente, chiamo memoria – intendo un momento, una scena, un fatto che è rimasto impresso e quindi è sfuggito all’oblio – è in realtà una narrazione che va continuamente avanti nella mente; e il racconto spesso muta a furia di narrarlo. Troppi interessi emotivi in conflitto fra loro vi sono di mezzo perché la vita possa essere interamente accettabile, e magari compito del narratore è quello di riordinare le cose in modo tale da renderle conformi a questo fine. Comunque parlando del passato noi mentiamo a ogni emissione di voce.)Partendo da due immagini, una notturna, di morte, e una diurna, di vita, il punto di vista del narratore si mischia e s’immerge in quello dei personaggi, proprio come i due saluti ‘So long’ e ‘See you tomorrow’ diventano uno solo nel titolo.So Long, See You TomorrowÈ il classico passaggio d’età, quello dall’adolescenza all’età adulta, che permea tanta letteratura americana. E, come spesso, è accompagnato da un vivo sentimento di perdita.C’è un limite, certo, a quello che uno può pretendere da se stesso adolescente. E seguitare a sentirsi in colpa per quello che avvenne tanto tempo fa non è molto ragionevole. Eppure, mi sento in colpa. Un poco. E sarà sempre così, credo, ogni qualvolta penserò a lui. Mi chiedo anche di lui, cosa ne sarà stato. Se… se tutto questo avrà, finalmente, cominciato a sembrargli meno reale – più simile a qualcosa da lui sognato – dopo di che forse egli avrà potuto, invece di restare fisso lì, tirare avanti e condurre una sua propria vita, senza sentirsi distrutto da quanto – non per opera sua – era accaduto.Primo amore, e altri affanni

  • Mikki
    2019-04-18 08:28

    Rarely do I find myself re-reading books since there are just way too many on my bucket list and time is steadily counting down. However, the other day, when my feed showed TWO people adding William Maxwell's So Long, See You Tomorrow, I figured that it must be a sign, so pushing my other reading aside, I grabbed my copy of the book and asked Anne if I could read along. She said "Yes!". It was the best decision I'd made in a while.You see, I first read this book in early 2009. It was my introduction to William Maxwell and I had no idea what to expect. I certainly didn't imagine that my mind would unhinge--intoxicated by the quiet beauty of the writing and lead me to "drunk" order everything on Amazon available by the man and then go on a month long binge! But, yes. I read one after another and at such speed that they all pretty much turned into one epic novel -- story-lines meshed and characters crossed over from one book to another and even the covers started looking alike. A mistake that I see clearly now.It was with this reading that I actually realized how masterfully Maxwell guides us through two stories with one encircling the other and the importance of this narrative structure. The book opens and closes in the present with the narrator looking back at a murder which occurred fifty years earlier during his childhood and regretting his own choices made and failure at being a better friend,.It's such a simple tale, really, about family and loving and loss and showing how our pasts are always very much still "present" inside. It's about all of the "what if" in life and none of the here's why. The language is spare but rich in detail, and there is a poignancy that will cause you to smile sadly because he got it just right. I can honestly say that my appreciation for William Maxwell (and this book in particular) has greatly matured -- this is real whereas before it was just puppy love.

  • Tony
    2019-04-17 10:39

    The wind blows hard across the prairie and into small-town Lincoln, Illinois. You can feel it through the walls.Did I say walls? There might as well not be walls in the farmhouses in Lincoln, Illinois. The gossip blows hard, too. And young boys struggle with the transparent doings of mothers and fathers.William Maxwell uses such a young boy to narrate part of this story. He climbs the carpenter's work of his family's new house, unclothed studs and rafters; and he will be reminded of that years later at the Museum of Modern Art when he stares at Giacometti's Palace at 4 A.M.:The skeletal remains of memory. There's shame, fifty years later.Because sometimes boys become friends just because one of them shows up the next day. And the next and the next, until a ritual forms. And as such friends will do, they end their day with, So long, see you tomorrow.Then something happens. Those transparent doings of mothers and fathers, maybe. Then tomorrow is different. And every day thereafter. You ignore that friend, look right through him. And there's shame, fifty years later.

  • Melanie
    2019-04-07 12:21

    I love it when an author can tell a "big" story in so few words. This is the sad telling of the aftermath of murder which occurred in a rural community in the 1920's. We even get to hear the dog's prospective (which is heartbreaking by the way). Good book. I would recommend to most everyone.

  • Doug H
    2019-04-04 11:34

    Great writing and I liked the story-within-a-story framing, but the large cast of characters with similar surnames confused me at times. I also cared a lot more about Trixie the dog than any of the humans, but maybe that was intentional. Poor thing.

  • Maria Headley
    2019-03-22 05:26

    I don't know how I'd never read this before. It's particularly silly, because I've read possibly three entire books about William Maxwell, and certainly plenty of his New Yorker stuff, just in the way one reads randomly bits of things over the years, and they accrue, and one day, you realize, Hello, I haven't read any books by this writer that EVERYONE ADORES. Maxwell was an incredible person by all accounts - I read MY MENTOR, the Alec Wilkinson book about him, as well as a straight bio, and another anthology book written by a variety of his friends about him, after he passed away. The events of his life were less incredible than the way he lived his life = at some point, in a crisis of loneliness, he decided to change his life by loving everyone, not by waiting for them to love him. It's one thing to think that - entirely another to actually do it. It seems as though he managed to do it, and as a result, he changed people's lives right and left. The thing that put me onto him to begin with, was an essay published in Tin House about Maxwell as an old man, and a much younger writer's friendship with him. It was one of those pieces of writing that made you think, "I have to change my life. I have to be better." Not to mention the fact that, at least in my head, Maxwell is my writer-grandfather. He reminds me of my real grandfather, whom I miss. And so - onto the book. SO LONG, SEE YOU TOMORROW, is a ridiculously lovely piece of writing. It's a novella, dealing with the events and effects of a small-town love-triangle murder on the narrator, a young boy when the murder takes place, and on his friend, a boy who happens to be the son of the murderer. It's hard to break it down, though - this is a book that works not on the strength of its plot, but on the profound empathy it dispenses for everything within its covers. There is a justly celebrated section encompassing the point of view of a farm dog whose boy has moved into town, and who is left to the new owners of the farm. It will make you sob. You will likely not make it through this book without crying, and again, it's not the plot, but the soul. The book has a heart. Everyone should read it. And now, I'm back to reading the rest of Maxwell, cause clearly, I've been missing out.

  • Douglas
    2019-04-07 06:32

    “Love, even of the most ardent and soul-destroying kind, is never caught by the lens of the camera.”Oh, man. What have I stepped into with this book? There’s no way a single read is sufficient for me to review this burning revelation of the soul. “How was it that she didn’t realize it was going to last such a short time.”If anyone should ever ask me to recommend a work of fiction that sums up the human condition, passing this book along, I’ll reply, “Sit down. Read this. And don’t get up until you’re finished. If after you finish, you remain unmoved, I suspect your condition is not human.” Finally. Here’s a story that wasn’t required to serve a plot. Not to say the plot was insufficient, but that it wasn’t in control. I suspect Maxwell could’ve done anything with these characters, and they still would’ve passionately hurdled toward tragedy. That’s because these characters were true, and he could no more stop them than stop his own breath. I honestly don’t know what else to say. If you’re reading this review in hopes of deciding whether to read this or not, I say read it and find out for yourself. As for me, I howled. Literally. “She waited a long long time, trying not worry. Trying to be good - trying to be especially good. And telling herself that they had only gone in town and were coming right back, even though it was perfectly obvious that this wasn’t true. Not the way they acted. Eventually, in spite of her, the howls broke out. Sitting on her haunches, with her muzzle raised to the night sky, she howled and howled. And it wasn’t just the dog howling, it was all the dogs she was descended from, clear back to some wolf or other.”I feel that admitting you howled at a book is review enough.

  • Carmo
    2019-04-06 09:23

    4.5*"Maxwell consegue algo que só os maiores romancistas conseguem: transforma a dor e as mágoas profundas em palavras de uma brilhante simplicidade."Anthony Quinn, ObserverUm livro precioso, uma escrita delicada de uma subtileza que nos leva a desvendar nas entrelinhas o que de mais profundo nos conta. Uma história de amizades, amores, traições, crime e arrependimento. Um regresso ao passado e uma tentativa de recriação e redenção.Só não leva 5* porque o antecessor, Vieram como Andorinhas, consegue o prodígio de ser ainda melhor.

  • Fabian
    2019-04-01 13:44

    Not even a bleep upon the literary radar. Minor, with interspersed Gothickish elements here and there. Nothing to write home about! ... bleh.

  • Jon
    2019-03-26 06:40

    At 135 pages, this is a book slight in length and deceptively simple in plot, yet powerful in it’s depiction of love and loss. Set in 1921, in a small rural mid-western town, the book opens with a murder. On one cold winter morning, a single shot rings out just before daybreak and a local tenant farmer, Lloyd Wilson, is found dead that morning in his barn. There is little that’s mysterious about the crime, Smith had been having an affair with his best friend’s wife and the friend, Clarence Smith, is himself found a few days later dead of a self inflicted gunshot wound. All of this happens in the first few pages and after writing about the murder, Maxwell goes on to write a nostalgic, semi-autobiographical story that weaves the events that lead up to the murder with a coming of age story. In the first part of the novel, the narrator of the story, a man in his 60s who had formed a youthful friendship with the son of the murderer, writes of his early childhood in the town. Loss figures prominently in this section and Maxwell describes how certain losses can shape our lives. In this section, Maxwell does a good job of showing life in a small town and painting a picture of an early childhood touched by bereavement. The narrator loses his mother in an influenza outbreak at a young age and describes it thusly: “The worst that could happen had happened, and the shine went out of everything”. The narrator writes about his estrangement from his father and the further losses that occurred over time, but there is a bright spot, his friendship with another boy formed while playing on the scaffolding of the narrator’s half-built house:“Whatever I suggested doing we did. I never asked Cletus if there wasn’t something he’d rather be doing, because he was always ready to do what I wanted to do. It occurs to me now that he was not very different from an imaginary playmate. When I was with him, if I said something the boys in the school yard would have jeered at, he let the opportunity pass and went on carefully teetering with one foot in front of the other….I suppose he must have liked me somewhat or he wouldn’t have been there. And that he was glad for my companionship. He didn’t act as if there was some other boy waiting for him to turn up. He must have understood that I was going to live in this house when it was finished, but it didn’t occur to me to wonder where he lived”.Remembering his friend decades later, the second half of the book is the narrator’s reconstruction of the events that lead up to the murder. Each character’s point of view is shown and Maxwell treats each character with compassion and empathy. By starting the book with the murder, the events in this section are infused with a sense of sadness. The reader knows how things will play out and there’s more than a touch of tragedy as events march towards their eventual conclusion.

  • Edward
    2019-04-22 10:32

    I'm sometimes skeptical of novels that centre around a murder - it can be an easy way to lend emotional power to a story, and can feel like a trick (how many people actually get murdered anyway, to justify so many books about murders). But So Long, See You Tomorrow is less about the murder than it is about examining the enduring and unforeseen consequences of our decisions - both in action and inaction - and how these can haunt us, and damage the lives of others in profound ways. Some such choices are seemingly insignificant: the way the narrator antagonises over a mundane action taken decades ago, imbuing it with weight and significance, is so typical of the way we misunderstand each other daily in our lives, and the way our memories can warp the past. Sometimes it's hard to discern what our choices are from amongst the consequences of the choices of others. Is loving someone a choice? Then what choices are left to those hurt by love? The writing is polished and understated, with an honest tone, and you can tell the author is writing about a place with which he is deeply familiar - the minute details of the setting and its inhabitants paint a full and vivid picture of a childhood lost.

  • Diane S ☔
    2019-04-04 08:21

    In straightforward and concise prose, seriously not a word is wasted they all have incredible meaning, Maxwell conveys the loss of innocence of two boyhood friends. This book is so short but the words and the story are so tall. One of the four 1920's books I am presently reading, by a Chicago author I had never heard of, and it was very very good. Reminded me a bit of the writing of Kent Hauf, he manages to provoke tension, dread and a bittersweet poignancy all at the same time. The characters, their lives on the farm, the women, the children and even the dog are fully realized characters and all in these short pages. Amazing. Must read more of this author.

  • Tom
    2019-04-13 05:38

    The most heart-breaking novel I've ever read (with John Williams' Stoner a close second). I've read it several times, taught it twice, and the ending never fails to put a lump in my throat.

  • Jimmy
    2019-04-06 12:49

    4.5 stars. I listened to a story on NPR the other day about how the police can often tell if a suspect is lying because the lies are elaborated fully with so much detail, as if to make up for the fabrication, whereas the truth is often very simple.This book reminded me of that because it is elaborate and full of detail, from the history of the town to the history of each character to the description of one thing or another that strikes the reader as something nobody would just make up, so that the world seems totally complete and real. At the same time, it is telling a simple story, but in a roundabout way. And the voice is so compelling, the tone so convincing, so filled with the seemingly trivial, that it reads like a memoir. It's a subtle, quiet, and understated writing style that reminded me a bit of Gilead.Thinking about it now, it seems interesting because this air of truth comes from a refreshing lack of artifice in the construction/style. And yet there is plenty of artifice; in fact, this book is exactly about artifice, yet the directness and the genuineness of its tone makes it the antithesis of cleverness.The novel takes a weird form. It starts with the narrator telling us of his childhood, the town he grew up in, his father, brother, mother, stepmother, the second house they moved into (temporarily), the house they had built and moved into eventually, then the school he went to when they moved again to Chicago. All the while, he weaves in the story of two families that lived in the same town, a story of a murder that he knew only from hearsay and from old news stories he has collected (the narrator is now older; he is looking back as he is retelling this story). His own link to the story of these two families is a very brief one: he was friends with the son of one of the families in the way children are often friends... playmates.Then, the novel takes a turn. It starts telling the story of these two families, not from a distance or with facts from news clips like it did in the first pages, but from an intimate and imagined perspective. In fact, the narrator admits to fabricating all these details to satisfy his story, or because there is something in this story that has haunted him all these years. After a while, you begin to forget that this is his version of a story he couldn't have possibly known so intimately because the details are so strong, the characters so fully fleshed and sympathetic. The bulk of the book, in fact, lives in this other story that he recalls/imagines. And it is a sad story, of course, but one that is also rich in a way that the summary of what happened in the beginning of the book cannot be: the characters are made so human that you feel genuinely sorry for each of them. Noone is the villain here.After finishing the book, I can't help but wonder about the way this book was written. Why did the author choose to wrap this intriguing story around another less intriguing story, by having it be told by a narrator who wasn't there? Exactly because the two stories really do interact, albeit not in a direct way. The narrator's own less dramatic story of his mother's death and having to deal with the everyday betrayal of having a new step-mother who happens to be a good person (thus, he can't even hate her for it) is something that can happen to nearly anybody, and is an emotional and cruel experience for a child even though it is totally accepted by society and not talked about much since it is the norm. But the emotions of his almost normal childhood has enabled him to empathize, then and now, with this other boy who had a much more public and dramatic betrayal within his family. In a way, this story is very much about memory, artifice, empathy, and guilt (the outside story) as much as it is about betrayal, infidelity, murder, and the cruelty of fate (the inside stories).I do want to point out that I read this about 5 years ago, and didn't recall a single thing about it other than that I vaguely liked it. I think I enjoyed it much more this time around.

  • Diane
    2019-04-08 08:24

    This is one of the best novellas I have read in years. I sought it out after learning that Ann Patchett lists it as one of her favorite books.The story is very simple: It's a man trying to make sense of a murder that happened in his small town in Illinois in the 1920s. The narrator, who himself had a rough childhood because his mother died when he was young, was once friends with a boy whose father was the accused murderer. The narrator now feels guilty that he didn't try to help the boy back then. He describes the events that led up to the murder, and we learn what really happened between two men who had once been friends.The book is only 135 pages, but it is so well-crafted that I would often reread entire sections to better appreciate them. For example, this is how the story begins:"The gravel pit was about a mile east of town, and the size of a small lake, and so deep that boys under sixteen were forbidden by their parents to swim there. I knew it only by hearsay. It had no bottom, people said, and because I was very much interested in the idea that if you dug a hole straight down anywhere and kept on digging it would come out in China, I took this to be a literal statement of fact."One winter morning shortly before daybreak, three men loading gravel there heard what sounded like a pistol shot. Or, they agreed, it could have been a car backfiring. Within a few seconds it had grown light. No one came to the pit through the field that lay alongside it, and they didn't see anyone walking on the road. The sound was not a car backfiring; a tenant farmer named Lloyd Wilson had just been shot and killed, and what they heard was the gun that killed him."The novel is so beautifully constructed that it should be assigned in literature classes. I highly recommend it.

  • Richard Derus
    2019-04-06 07:30

    Rating: 4.5* of fiveMy review was a surprise to me, funnily enough. All the way through the book, loaded as always with Author Maxwell's beautiful prose, I was sure that this later-career effort would get not-quite four stars. But then something happened.

  • Laysee
    2019-04-22 07:46

    "One winter morning shortly before daybreak, three men loading gravel…heard what sounded like a pistol shot..." Thus began the arresting novella by William Maxwell. “So Long, See You Tomorrow” was written in 1980 and won the American Book Award and the Howells Medal of the American Academy of Arts and Letters.The story was set in the early 1910s to 1920s in Lincoln, Illinois. Even though the central event was the murder of a tenant farmer (Llyod Wilson), the more compelling story (at least for me) was that of the nameless narrator as he recollected his painful childhood and attempted to reconstruct the events leading up to the fatal shooting. The murderer was the father of a playmate (Cletus Smith) whose companionship the narrator treasured for blunting the grief he felt when his father remarried after his mother’s death. “So long, see you tomorrow” was the boys’ parting shot until the murder, which brought to an abrupt end their mutually therapeutic playtime. Maxwell sensitively conveyed the bleak internal landscape of the 10-year-old narrator when his mother died: "The worst that could happen had happened, and the shine went out of everything." There was something touching in how the child found comfort in curling up with his books at home in the darkest corner he could find. It was moving how the child put his arms around the waist of his grief-stricken father as they numbly paced their sad house together night after night. There was so much love wrapped up in grief – unspoken – it ached. Interestingly enough, the same scene was poignantly recapitulated in the final chapter by the narrator who was by then an adult. Maxwell also captured the social expectations of life in the 1920s. It was a time when fathers did not openly show their affection for their sons. The narrator reflected on the ambivalence (a seeming alloy of aloofness and tenderness) of his relationship with his father: "We were both creatures of the period."I guess in reading a book, each reader finds himself or herself anchored in parts of the story that struck a chord. For me, it was the void between the past and the present that the adolescent narrator and Cletus, each unbeknownst to the other, needed to cross when their families fell apart. This, however, is not the whole tale. There is the larger story surrounding the murder, which Maxwell told with the skill of a consummate story teller. On many levels, I found this too to be one of the kindest books I have ever read.