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What There Is to Say We Have Said: The Correspondence of Eudora Welty and William Maxwell Hardcover – May 12, 2011
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From Publishers Weekly
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—Ann Patchett, author of The Patron Saint of Liars, Bel Canto, Run, among others "Something truly special happened each time Eudora Welty and William Maxwell wrote a letter to the other. Suzanne Marrs has collected more than 300 of those letters and set them into a time and context. Anyone who relishes and celebrates the magic use of words, storytelling, and friendship will treasure the end result forever. And, most likely, they will continue to pick it up and read from it forever. It’s truly that kind of special."
—Jim Lehrer "A complex improvisation carried on for years by two artists for whom nothing in the realm of literature or feeling was remote."
—Alec Wilkinson, author of The Happiest Man in the World and My Mentor: A Young Writer’s Friendship with William Maxwell "This book lets us in on the happy fact that two splendid writers, who did not sacrifice humanity to career, were warmly admitted to each others’ lives."
—Richard Wilbur "These letters evoke a lost world when events moved a bit more slowly, and friends could take the time to be both eloquently witty and generous with each other, and letters were unobtrusively artful about daily life. Welty and Maxwell are like two birds of the same species, calling to each other across the distances."
—Charles Baxter "If friendship is an art, this volume is its masterpiece—the complex rendering of two long, literate lives well-lived, always written with care, intelligence, grace, and even humor! Miss Welty’s gentle, constant humor is a revelation, providing the grace notes in this beautiful exchange. And, oh my—our own paltry e-mails pale beside these letters, as our scatter-shot lives seem trivial in comparison to the constancy and purpose of the correspondents."
—Lee Smith "A literary revelation. Suzanne Marrs’s editing of this rich collection is superlative."
—Roger Mudd, journalist and broadcaster "One of the richest and most riveting collections of famous-people letters to emerge in some time."
"A vivid snapshot of 20th-century intellectual life and an informative glimpse of the author-editor relationship, as well a tender portrait of devoted friendship."
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Top Customer Reviews
These letters reveal what normal lives both writers lived. One of the funniest illustrations of this comes when Bill mentioned that "Brookie has picked up her room." That he underlined this comment about his daughter's accomplishment needs no explanation.
As I read "What There Is to Say", time seemed to slow down for me. Welty and Maxwell seemed to relish every moment, rather than making everything rushed and urgent. It was as if they took the minutes of each day into the palms of their hands, touching them, slowly inspecting and memorizing them from every possible angle, before reluctantly releasing them. This was demonstrated most clearly in Bill's recount of an evening with Isak Dinesen.
Maxwell captured every aspect of Dinesen's appearance and soul as he perceived her. He spoke of his conversation with her and how he "worshipped her all through dinner". Dinesen came alive for me. The moment is frozen in time because he did not rush through it or focus on himself. He honed in on Dinesen and wrote of the beauty and elegance of every movement and inflection. It was as if he was personally slowing time down for the enjoyment of the moment that would soon pass by. Maybe in this way writing is like parenting, if you want to be good at it you cannot be selfish. You have to be willing to spend time focusing on others.
I highly recommend this book to anyone who loves Welty, Maxwell, and their contemporaries.Read more ›
It begins in the 1940s when Maxwell was editing for the New Yorker. He'd met Eudora at a party and later wrote to her asking for a short story for the New Yorker. Her first couple of stories were rejected, but a kind friendship evolved from that request, and readers get a "Peeping Tom" view at it from the letters the two magnificent writers penned to one another.
Imagine coming across a stack of letters in the dusty attic of a long gone loved one and you sit down to read them. You are overcome with tears and smiles at the pieces of history and of their lives that the letters suddenly reveal to you. If you are a fan of either of these wonderful authors, that's kind of how you will feel upon reading this book.
Eventually some of Welty's stories were accepted thanks to Maxwell's efforts, along with the entire novella The Ponder Heart, so Maxwell became not only her friend but her editor. The craftmanship of writing and editing shared between the two is truly inspiring, especially if you have read any of Welty's work that is mentioned. If you haven't, then get ready to visit the library because you will want to read it. Maxwell's own great work is also mentioned as he seeks out Eudora's writerly advice on characterization and plot.Read more ›
In the process of correspondence and Maxwell's close editing of Welty's writing for the magazine, they became friends. When Welty visited New York, they met and fell further into friendship. They came to consider one another family.
I enjoy reading letters, but only from people who know how to write them. No worries here. Some correspondences between literary folk are conscious literary productions. The writers know that not only just the addressee, but posterity will be reading them as well. Although such letters exist in the Welty-Maxwell collection, they are fairly rare and were produced for specific circumstances. For example, Maxwell's contribution to a Welty Festschrift took the form of a letter. Generally, however, this is not the case. These are two friends essentially keeping in touch. The letters may lack the finish of their stories and essays, but that doesn't deny their literary qualities. Two wonderful writers just can't help themselves, and there's a lot of play between them. They can't break the habit of entertaining their listeners, readers, and friends.
The letters tend to reflect (no big surprise) the writers' habits as writers.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Found the letters hard to handle but the book was interesting. You've got to really like the writers to get through the book. Be warned, it's not bedtime reading. Read morePublished 16 months ago by Amazon Customer
At first I found the letters disappointing but as time went on and the friendship flourished things got more interesting--more references to Maxwell's editorial help for Welty,... Read morePublished on July 11, 2013 by Nell Abbott
One of the most satisfying books in my reading lifetime. When I finished it, I felt bereft. Welty and Maxwell were such good company -- two bright and utterly lovable people... Read morePublished on May 31, 2013 by David Curry
It might help if I'd actually read some Eudora Welty or William Maxwell, but shouldn't this book inspire me to do so? So far it hasn't. Read morePublished on March 5, 2013 by Tamis Renteria
The book arrived in good condition and I am completely satisfied with all aspects of the purchase. All's well that ends well!Published on February 13, 2013 by Mr. S. Roberts
These two had a great connection that comes through clearly in this book of letters. I have typically found that you either love or hate these collections of correspondence and... Read morePublished on October 19, 2012 by Mike Donovan
I always enjoy reading collection of correspondence between individuals partly because it gives me a voyeuristic view of a conversation I was never to be a part of. Read morePublished on October 8, 2012 by Dr. Wilson Trivino
They just talk about flowers. He's fascinated by her, she deals with this love -- with respect. A little bit glacial. Their conversation rarely delves into literature.Published on August 30, 2012 by Enzo Potel
Dear Eudora, William Maxwell and Emily Maxwell,
I should include Brookie and Kate Maxwell (the Maxwell daughters) and Chestina Welty (Eudora's mother) in my addressing,... Read more