Ike’s Road Trip

How Eisenhower’s 1919 Convoy Paved the Way for the Roads We Travel

All roads begin somewhere and today’s U. S. highway system began with an unforgettable, exploratory, cross-country ride, led by a 28-year-old Army lieutenant colonel, Dwight Eisenhower. This is the story of his coast-to-coast journey and how the dream of connecting America with roads began.

Before he led the liberation of Europe, before he became our nation’s 34th President, Dwight D. Eisenhower’s made a road trip in 1919 from Washington D.C. to California. The expedition proved to be a crucial chapter in the history of American culture as it laid the groundwork to make automobile travel the fastest and easiest way to move around the country, also setting in motion the nation’s future love affair with cheap crude.

The 1919 Transcontinental Motor Convoy of eighty-one trucks and other military vehicles traveled more than 3,00 precarious miles along the most famous road of the day, the Lincoln Highway, which ran between New York City and San Francisco. World War I had illustrated the importance of being able to move large amounts of troops and equipment quickly over long distances, and Eisenhower’s mission on the road trip was to evaluate whether the country’s emerging network of paved roadways could handle such a task. It was an experience Eisenhower would never forget.

“The old convoy had started me thinking about good, two-lane highways,” he later wrote. “This was one of the things that I felt deeply about, and I made a personal and absolute decision to see that the nation would benefit by it.” Decades later, as president, he drew on that experience to push through the Interstate Highway Act of 1956.

Ike’s Road Trip adds an important chapter to the story of the midwestern president who is often seen as “America’s grandfather.” Eisenhower will also be seen as a modern visionary during a pivotal moment: his persistent trust in cheap petroleum proved to be a blueprint for modern America as he helped facilitate the most significant energy transition of the twentieth century. Today, we are experiencing perhaps the most important energy transition since Eisenhower’s day—from petroleum to renewables—and that change will require minds as equally visionary as his.

Hardly Harmless Drudgery

A 500-Year Pictorial History of the Lexicographic Geniuses, Sciolists, Plagiarists, and Obsessives Who Defined the English Language

“A delight”—Booklist

“Bibliophiles will swoon for this sweeping survey.”
Publishers Weekly—

A richly illustrated historical account of English-language dictionaries, and the people who made them, from the dawn of printing to the present day.

Dictionaries are repositories of erudition, monuments to linguistic authority, and battlefields in cultural and political struggles. For centuries, they were also works of almost superhuman endurance, produced by people who devoted themselves for years, even decades, to the wearisome labor of corralling, recording, and defining the vocabulary of a language. Dictionaries also are often beautiful objects: typographically innovative, designed to project learning and authority.

Painstakingly collected and lovingly presented, here are the stories behind great works of scholarship and the people who produced them—their prodigious endurance, their nationalist fervor, their philological elucubrations haphazardly mixed with crackpot theories, their petty rivalries, their need for sales, and their sometimes irrational conduct and visceral hatreds.

Readers will find towering figures of English lexicography—Samuel Johnson, the American patriot Noah Webster, the Oxford English Dictionary’s James Murray—and many more obscure lexicographers whose achievements and biographies are no less fascinating. For one, meet Ann Fisher, England’s first female lexicographer, whose dictionary in 1773 introduced the radical innovation of alphabetically separating the letter pairs I and J and U and V (reacting against her predecessors who had “ever blended and confounded them”).

The lesser-known works here include the small, unassuming 1604 book that is generally regarded as the “first English dictionary”; the early representatives of the “hard word” tradition as it evolves into attempts to cover the whole vocabulary; and the vast Century Dictionary—an American enterprise that rivaled the original OED.

As the quest for completeness placed a dictionary beyond one author’s ability (or lifespan), editors and publishers adapted. For the OED, in 1918, J. R. R. Tolkien was hired to define select words beginning with W (and he tackled warm, wash, wasp, water, wick, and winter). Later in the 20th century, the Random House Dictionary of the English Language was marketed as relying, not on famous literary figures or educators, but instead on computers for exactitude.

However they may have been written and compiled, dictionaries induce us to ask about the basis of authority. Who gets to say what is an English word and what is not, what words mean, and how words should be used? The 19th century saw a craze for nonstandard, regional dialect, the collection of which led to crowdsourcing before that word had even been coined (the same basic method continues today with the Urban Dictionary website). In 1944, the first dictionary by a Black American (of slang “hepster jive”) appeared. The first gay dictionary emerged in the early 1970s, followed in the 1980s by the first dictionary for feminists and the first for hackers. Meanwhile, the form of dictionaries has changed—especially since 1995 and the start-up website Dictionary.com. Today, the future of the printed dictionary is in question, but the central relevance of dictionaries, whatever their format, to communication and culture endures.

Hardly Harmless Drudgery is a long-overdue celebration of all those who toiled in service to language and meaning. It covers more than half a millennium, from the 15th century to the 21st, with biographical and bibliographical information, correspondence, and engrossing details never before published. Profusely illustrated with 750 photographs of books and ephemera, this is nothing less than a glorious celebration of words and the people who love them.

PRAISE

“Bountiful photos show the exteriors and interiors of the volumes discussed, and the authors’ decision to highlight less obvious lexicographic volumes—such as poet Clarence Major’s 1970 compilation of African American slang, a 1972 rundown of ‘LGBTQ lingo,’ and the online Urban Dictionary—ensure the proceedings don’t get stodgy. Bibliophiles will swoon for this sweeping survey.”
Publishers Weekly

“This fascinating history of English language dictionaries shows their evolution from fifteenth-century glossaries of early English through current online dictionaries . . . A delight for lexicographers, etymologists, philologists, and word geeks.”
—Booklist“This fascinating history of English language dictionaries shows their evolution from fifteenth-century glossaries of early English through current online dictionaries . . . A delight for lexicographers, etymologists, philologists, and word geeks.”
Booklist

“What an achievement for both Bryan A. Garner and Jack Lynch. Hardly Harmless Drudgery serves multiple constituencies, appealing both to the curious lover of books and to the scholar. We are fortunate that through Godine, the authors have made the book commercially accessible to everyone. It’s a rare coffee-table book that marries beautiful photography with first-rate scholarship.”
David E. Vancil, Retired Director, Department of Rare Books and Special Collections, Indiana State University

Hardly Harmless Drudgery is an exciting and enriching read, an intellectually delectable feast for anyone who loves the beauty of dictionaries and the richness of their cultural content.”
Edward Finegan, Professor Emeritus of Linguistics and Law, University of Southern California

Moonshine

A Life in Pursuit of White Liquor

A vivid portrait of legendary liquor agent Garland Bunting, an American original who patrolled rural North Carolina when moonshiners worked their stills in the backcountry.

For thirty-five years, Garland Bunting slid his “sweet potato shape—small at both ends and big in the middle” onto the front seat of his beat-up pickup with the coon dogs in the back to ride around in pursuit of moonshine stills in Halifax County, North Carolina. Bunting was true a one-of-a-kind, a man who would do nearly anything to get his culprit. To best the bootleggers, Bunting passed himself off as an outrageous array of characters, including a door-to-door fish peddler, a preacher, a farmer, a fox hunter, a sawmill worker, and a woman.

Articulate, canny, imaginative, and aware—aware even that he’s an unusual character—Bunting fills the foreground of Alec Wilkinson’s deeply reported and elegantly told story. This is experiential, immersive, journalism at its best.

Moonshine is a wonderfully alive portrait of both Bunting and rural North Carolina’s coastal plain, with its landscape of small farms, woods, and swamps. We meet the people Bunting grew up with, his fellow liquor agents, his cronies, and his shy wife, Colleen. Along the way, we learn the history of moonshine and how it is made, and accompany Bunting on the stake-out of a small, backwoods still.

For viewers who made Moonshiners a hit for 12 seasons on the Discovery Channel, this is the book they’ve been waiting for. All readers will find a story where the flavors of the past and present are richly intermingled.

This Nonpareil edition includes a new introduction by Padgett Powell. See here for a complete list of Nonpareils.

Stay Here with Me

A Memoir

Novelist Robert Olmstead journeys back to his youth on his grandfather’s New Hampshire dairy farm to confront the ghosts that continue to afflict him in this coming-of-age memoir.

Robert Olmstead has peopled his fiction with the rough-hewn farmers, loggers, and hired hands of rural New England mountain towns where getting drunk, getting into fights, and getting thrown out of bars are the normal rites of passage. In Stay Here with Me, Olmstead lays bare the acute pain of his father’s alcoholism and the decline of his grandfather, the family patriarch. With delicate sensuality, he also traces the flowering of his first love for a woman who “walks like light would walk if it could.”

Authentic, intimate, and intense, Stay Here with Me is about growing up and leaving home and about the acts of rebellion that free the body even as they bind the soul to a place forever.

This Nonpareil edition includes a new introduction by novelist and essayist, Brock Clarke. See here for a complete list of Nonpareils.

When You See My Mother, Ask Her to Dance

Poems

An intimate, autobiographical poetry collection from legendary artist and activist, Joan Baez.

Joan Baez shares poems for or about her contemporaries (such as Bob Dylan, Judy Collins, and Jimi Hendrix), reflections from her childhood, personal thoughts, and cherished memories of her family, including pieces about her younger sister, singer-songwriter Mimi Fariña. Speaking to the people, places, and moments that have had the greatest impact on her art, this collection is an inspiring personal diary in the form of poetry.

While Baez has been writing poetry for decades, she’s never shared it publicly. Poems about her life, her family, about her passions for nature and art, have piled up in notebooks and on scraps of paper. Now, for the first time ever, her life is shared revealing pivotal life experiences that shaped an icon, offering a never-before-seen look into the reminiscences and musings of a great artist.

Like a late-night chat with someone you love, this collection connects fans to the real heart of who Joan Baez is as a person, as a daughter and sister, and as an artist who has inspired millions.

Praise for When You See My Mother, Ask Her to Dance

“Joan’s ideas and musings ricochet from the profound and humanly factual to the observant and slyly humorous. Her words can be both poignantly executed and captivating in a colorful closeness that pin-points the chinks in our armor that mirror all facets of the world we inhabit. A national treasure she is indeed.”
Bernie Taupin, author of Scattershot: Life, Music, Elton, and Me

“In these courageous and soul-searching poems, Joan Baez reveals the joy and sorrow of a life lived fully. Her deceptively simple and elegant verses resonate with profound insight into what it means to be alive, looking Janus-like from past to present. Beautiful.”
Gabriel Byrne, author of Walking with Ghosts

“The artist’s urgency to account for ‘talents’ (see Matthew 25: 14-30), to complete the record and reckoning, informs this sumptuous debut collection of poems. To her work in song, on canvas, in advocacy for the human causes, this work in words claims its place among Ms. Baez’s free-range creations. Brava, is the thing I say, and write on!”
Thomas Lynch, author of Bone Rosary: New & Selected Poems

Farnsworth’s Classical English Argument

Learn how to argue from the masters. This book is a complete course on the art of argument, taught by the greatest practitioners of it: Churchill, Lincoln, and hundreds of others from the golden age of debate in England and America.

The book’s concise chapters provide lessons in all aspects of give and take—the syllogism and the slippery slope, the argumentum ad hominem and reductio ad absurdum, the fallacy and the insult. Ward Farnsworth shows how the full range of such techniques can be used or repelled, and illustrates them with examples that are fascinating, instructive, and fun to read.

The result is a browsable reference in which every page is a pleasure. It will leave you better able to win arguments and to defend yourself under fire. It’s also an entertaining reminder that argument can be a source of beauty and delight. As Farnsworth says of the illustrations, they show talented advocates “crossing analytical swords and exchanging abuse when those things were done with more talent and dignity than is common today. They made argument a spectator sport of lasting value and interest.”

Farnsworth’s Classical English Argument is the fourth book in a series about the ideas and methods embedded in the best speech and writing of an earlier time. Previous titles in the series are Farnsworth’s Classical English Rhetoric, Farnsworth’s Classical English Metaphor, and Farnsworth’s Classical English Style. Each book is a treasury of insight and an essential reference for all users of language.

RARE BIPARTISAN CONSENSUS!
PRAISE FOR FARNSWORTH’S CLASSICAL ENGLISH ARGUMENT

“A master class on the art of argument from someone who grades them for a living. You should need a permit to carry it.”
Senator John Cornyn (R-TX)

“In this brilliant and useful book, Professor Farnsworth brings the spirit of the Stoics to public discourse. It’s a set of lessons for the ages—in analysis, rhetoric, civility and wit.”
Senator Michael Bennet (D-CO)

PRAISE FOR PRIOR BOOKS IN THE FARNSWORTH’S CLASSICAL ENGLISH SERIES

Farnsworth’s Classical English Style

“An eloquent study of the very mechanisms of eloquence.”
Henry Hitchings

“A great and edifying pleasure.”
—Mark Helprin

“A storehouse of effective writing, showing the techniques you may freely adapt to make music of your own.”
The Baltimore Sun

“For writers aspiring to master the craft, Farnsworth shows how it’s done. For lovers of language, he provides waves of sheer pleasure.”
—Steven Pinker

Farnsworth’s Classical English Rhetoric

“I must refrain from shouting what a brilliant work this is (præteritio). Farnsworth has written the book as he ought to have written it – and as only he could have written it (symploce). Buy it and read it – buy it and read it (epimone).”
Bryan A. Garner, Garner’s Modern English Usage

“The most immediate pleasure of this book is that it heightens one’s appreciation of the craft of great writers and speakers. Mr. Farnsworth includes numerous examples from Shakespeare and Dickens, Thoreau and Emerson, Winston Churchill and Abraham Lincoln. He also seems keen to rehabilitate writers and speakers whose rhetorical artistry is undervalued; besides his liking for Chesterton, he shows deep admiration for the Irish statesman Henry Grattan (1746-1820), whose studied repetition of a word (‘No lawyer can say so; because no lawyer could say so without forfeiting his character as a lawyer’) is an instance, we are told, of conduplicatio. But more than anything Mr. Farnsworth wants to restore the reputation of rhetorical artistry per se, and the result is a handsome work of reference.”
Wall Street Journal

Farnsworth’s Classical English Metaphor

“Ward Farnsworth is a witty commentator…It’s a book to dip in and savor.”
The Boston Globe

“Most people will find it a grab-bag of memorable quotations, an ideal browsing book for the nightstand.”
The Washington Post

“I want this book to be beside my bed for years to come, a treasure-house of the liquid magic of words.”
Simon Winchester

“A feat of elegant demystification…Farnsworth is able to focus on the finite material of metaphorical referents…a brilliant strategy, both in its utility for writers and the inherent insight Farnsworth’s divisions suggest about metaphors.”
The Millions

PRAISE FOR ADDITIONAL TITLES BY THE INVALUABLE FARNSWORTH

The Socratic Method

“Amid 21st-century rancor, a voice from ancient Athens offers an alternative: truth and a little humility….None should be discouraged from seeking out this remarkable book. By presenting the Socratic method as invitingly as it does, it eases the daunting task of taming the fanatical, irrational, censorious beasts in the American political zoo.”
Wall Street Journal

“Learned, erudite, and elegant.”
The Millions

“The Socratic method decelerates reasoning, making space for deliberation when disagreements arise. So, the Socratic method is, Farnsworth says, an antidote to some social pandemics of our day.”
George F. Will

The Practicing Stoic

“As befits a good Stoic, Farnsworth’s expository prose exhibits both clarity and an unflappable calm… Throughout The Practicing Stoic, Farnsworth beautifully integrates his own observations with scores of quotations from Epictetus, Seneca, Marcus Aurelius, Montaigne and others. As a result, this isn’t just a book to read—it’s a book to return to, a book that will provide perspective and consolation at times of heartbreak or calamity.”
The Washington Post

“It is reported that upon Seneca’s tomb are written the words, Who’s Minding the Stoa? He would be pleased to know the answer is Ward Farnsworth.”
David Mamet

“This is a book any thoughtful person will be glad to have along as a companion for an extended weekend or, indeed, for that protracted journey we call life.”
The New Criterion

Gardener at the End of the World

A gardener’s pandemic journal that combines memoir with an exploration of the natural world both inside and outside the garden.

In March 2020, Margot Anne Kelley was watching seeds germinate in her greenhouse. At high risk from illness, the planning, planting, and tending to seedlings took on extra significance. She set out to make her pandemic garden thrive but also to better understand the very nature of seeds and viruses.

As seeds became seedlings, became plants, became food, Kelley looks back over the last few millennia as successions of pandemics altered human beings and global culture. Seeds and viruses serve as springboards for wide-ranging reflections, such as their shared need for someone to transport them, the centrality of movement to being alive, and the domestication of plants as an act of becoming co-dependent.

Pandemic viruses only occurred through humankind’s settling down, taking up agriculture, and giving up a nomadic life. And yet it’s the garden that now provides a refuge and a source of life, inspiration, and hope. A Gardener at the End of the World explores questions of what we can preserve—of history, genetic biodiversity, culture, language—and what we cannot. It is for any reader curious about the overlap of nature, science, and history.

Praise for A Gardener at the End of the World

“Kelley transforms musings about a gardening hobby into a rich—and richly instructive—historical journey through human history. An eloquent and thought-provoking narrative.”
Kirkus

“This book is a growing thing, concerned with the sounds a house makes as it wakes from winter dormancy, with ‘the music of moisture softening a seed coat, of germ expanding, growing so plump the coat eventually cracks.’ In A Gardener at the End of the World, Margot Anne Kelley grows onions and potatoes, melons and herbs, daffodils and word histories and the stories of life during a plague year. Like Janisse Ray’s The Seed Underground: A Growing Revolution to Save Food, this book is a journey through space and time to discover how humans and plants have shaped each other. I’ll never look at a loaf of bread the same way after reading Kelley’s lovely ode to Red Fife wheat. Kitchen gardens are stocked with histories, and Kelley reminds us to share and savor those stories lest they vanish.”
Joni Tevis, author of The World Is On Fire

“More than merely a gardener’s journal of the plague year, Margot Anne Kelley’s meditations on plant histories and plagues, written in the face of the 2020 pandemic, make the intertwined histories of human endeavor and of our basic food staples seem at once precarious, miraculous, and ultimately beautiful. In Kelley’s hands, the carrot, the tomato, the apple all become luminous records of human trade, reminding us that our desires and our diseases—our beauty and the banes we seek to abolish—are inextricably entwined. This is a rich book—one to savor.”
Tess Taylor, author of Work & Days and editor of Leaning Toward Light: Poems for Gardens and the Hands that Tend Them

In the Company of Art

A Museum Director's Private Journals

A vivid, firsthand account of daily life as a major museum director, a man the Boston Globe called “perhaps the most remarkable museum director of his generation.”

Over the course of his thirty-two-year career at both the St. Louis Art Museum and the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, Perry T. Rathbone kept a journal. These are his unguarded and spontaneous expressions, not meant for publication—at least not in his lifetime.

Alone in his study at the end of a day, Rathbone wrote in a large, unlined sketchbook, unloading whatever was fresh on his mind. Whether a meeting at the museum, a business trip, or a party he had just returned from, he wrote about whom he met, what he thought of them, the ambiance, the conversation, the art, the wine, and the food.

Rathbone’s journals provide a window onto an era of seismic cultural change seen through the eyes of an art czar and a tastemaker. There are meetings with artists such as William de Kooning, Edward Hopper, Andrew Wyeth, Isamu Noguchi, and Alexander Calder, men of letters such as T.S. Eliot and Aldous Huxley. There are observations of the collectors he courted, entertained, and forbore, such as Peggy Guggenheim and Joseph Pulitzer, and of the eccentric Boston Brahmin families with historic ties to the MFA—the Lowells, Lambs, Warrens, Coolidges, and Codmans. And of course he writes of the thrill of assisting Jaqueline Kennedy in the early 1960s with loans from the MFA to adorn the private quarters in the White House.

In the Company of Art includes journal entries from the end of Rathbone’s time as director of the St. Louis Art Museum in the early 1950s and through his finest years, his seventeen years at the MFA in Boston. “Many of the museum’s great acquisitions,” the Boston Globe wrote, “can be credited to Perry Rathbone, the legendary director of the MFA from the early ‘50s to the mid ‘70s.”

The journal concludes in the 1970s though the greatest concentration of entries focuses on the 1960s, during the banner years of Rathbone’s directorship of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston (the meteoric “Rathbone Era”). There he began to enjoy the rewards of his achievements at the museum with new acquisitions, renovated galleries, rising attendance and membership.

Rathbone won renown as the dean of museum directors in the United States, rightly celebrated for his ability to transform museums from quiet repositories of art into vibrant cultural centers. This is a unique record of what he thought along the way.

PRAISE

“An irreplicable insider’s look at the social and professional life of a museum director in the 1960s and how little as well as how much it has changed. Rathbone’s remarkable candor is the glue that holds it all together.”
Philippe DeMontebello, Director Emeritus, The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Sipsworth

A Novel

Over the course of two weeks in a small English town, a reclusive widow discovers an unexpected reason to live.

Following the loss of her husband and son, Helen Cartwright returns to the village of her childhood after living abroad for six decades. Her only wish is to die quickly and without fuss. She retreats into her home on Westminster Crescent, becoming a creature of routine and habit: “Each day was an impersonation of the one before with only a slight shuffle—as though even for death there is a queue.”

Then, one cold winter night, a chance encounter with a mouse sets Helen on a surprising journey.

Sipsworth is a reminder that there can be second chances. No matter what we have planned for ourselves, sometimes life has plans of its own. With profound compassion, Simon Van Booy illuminates not only a deep friendship forged between two lonely creatures, but the reverberations of goodness that ripple out from that unique bond.

Also by Simon Van Booy and available from Godine: Night Came with Many Stars and The Presence of Absence.

Praise for Simon Van Booy

Sipsworth

“Enchanting . . . fresh and often funny, thanks to the author’s artful prose.”
Publisher’s Weekly (starred review)

“Charming . . . generous . . . vibrant . . . reveal[s] something profound about the human need for connection.”
Foreword Reviews (starred review)

Sipsworth is a love story about a woman and a mouse. Reason suggests that such a relationship couldn’t possibly work, and yet I found myself pulling for this unlikely duo on every page. Simon Van Booy’s characters are loaded with charm, resilience, and the deep desire for connection that all mammals share. I loved it.”
Ann Patchett

“Through tears, laughter, joy, and pain, I just couldn’t stop reading this novel about friendship and second chances. Sipsworth is a marvel—storytelling at its absolute finest.”
Marc Levy

“Whimsical, beautifully detailed, and filled with heart, Sipsworth is a slim, sparkling jewel of a novel.”
Christina Baker Kline

The Presence of Absence

“Flows with depth and power….From its outset, The Presence of Absence runs blood-rich with declarations that make you inhale sharply….wide-open wonder.”
Washington Post

“Rich in setting and emotion. As ever with Van Booy, the reader is in good hands.”
Publishers Weekly

“Simon Van Booy electrifyingly combines story with parable. The Presence of Absence boggles and reverberates: wise, witty and always breathtakingly beautiful.”
San Francisco Chronicle, Best Fiction of the Year

“With its elegant passages on love and the fallibility of memory . . . this indelible portrait of transience, sorrow and hope will move readers.”
Shelf Awareness

Night Came with Many Stars

“It is a heartbreaking book, a gorgeous book…In Night Came with Many Stars, Van Booy finds the weakness, grace and beauty of common lives fully lived.”
NPR, “Books We Love”

“Not to miss!”
USA Today

“Kindness and raw luck undergird Night Came with Many Stars—echoing the trials and windfalls of Oliver Twist or David Copperfield. And like Dickens’s young heroes, Van Booy’s determined souls act with their whole hearts—as does this brave, fierce novel—to earn what good may come.”
Boston Globe

“Van Booy is a beautiful storyteller, and his latest offering is no exception.”
New York Post, “Best new books”

Writer as Illusionist

Uncollected & Unpublished Work

An illuminating collection of an author widely regarded as one of the twentieth century’s great unsung heroes of American literature.

As a fiction editor at The New Yorker from 1936 to 1975, William Maxwell helped shaped several generations’ sense of the literary short story. At the same time, Maxwell himself was also an exceptional novelist, short story writer, essayist, children’s author, and memoirist.

Given unique, unfettered access to Maxwell’s private papers, Alec Wilkinson—whose memoir My Mentor explores his twenty-five-year friendship with Maxwell—has gathered a stunning and revealing collection of some of Maxwell’s lesser-known and previously unpublished works of nonfiction and fiction.

The Writer as Illusionist includes biographical sketches; remembrances of fellow authors, such as the poet Louise Bogan and short story writer Maeve Brennan; a 1941 nonfiction piece about Bermuda that was the only piece of long reporting Maxwell ever published in The New Yorker; and Maxwell’s thoughts on the craft of writing, many of them made privately.

While Maxwell often said he never kept a journal because anything worth writing about was something a writer would remember, The Writer as Illusionist proves otherwise: included are many notes from his private journals, including some that became parts of his revered novels, such as The Folded Leaf.

Re-reading Maxwell’s work leads Wilkinson to think “I am still often amazed—at the subtlety of the art, the depth of what he saw, at his capacity for dramatizing situations that require a rare hand and eye.”

Maxwell passed away in 2000 at the age of ninety-one. The Writer as Illusionist celebrates his legacy in American letters and is part of Godine’s Nonpareil series. See here for a complete list of Nonpareils.

CRITICAL PRAISE

“A guaranteed delight for fans of Maxwell’s and New Yorker-style writing.”
Library Journal

“Marvelous, elegant prose abound in this collection from the celebrated writer.”
Kirkus

“An enlightening peek into the tight-lipped author’s personal life, and the lucid prose elevates his astute literary insights. The result is a fitting testament to Maxwell’s considerable talents.”
Publishers Weekly

“A guaranteed delight for fans of Maxwell’s and New Yorker-style writing.”
Library Journal

ADVANCE PRAISE 

“I suspect that one mark of great writers—writers who’ll be listed in the literary historical record; writers who’ll remain alive, for decades or centuries, after their earthly departures—is our ongoing interest in everything they wrote, thought, or said. Thanks to Alec Wilkinson’s brilliantly edited collection, my own convictions are confirmed: William Maxwell was, and remains, a great writer.”
Michael Cunningham, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Hours

“This collection is much more than the sum of its parts. Alec Wilkinson has done a masterful job of creating an unexpected and insightful autobiographical portrait of William Maxwell, a magical writer who shines through as a person of great rectitude and character. What a marvelous book!”
Edward Hirsch, author of The Heart of American Poetry

“As when leaving an exhibition of landscape paintings you might see a harbor, field, or forest out of the painter’s eyes, so when you read William Maxwell’s thoughts and reminiscences, you will, for a little while, view life through his humorous and keenly intelligent mind. Although he tells us that his writing process involves revision after revision, his prose is simple and direct. It flows as if it came into being without artifice, without struggle. He never indulges in writing for writing’s sake. Rather he puts together exquisite sentences propelled by his search for understanding. He talks to you. His quiet voice is close by. You can imagine sitting by a fire while Maxwell answers your questions about how he became a writer or how an autobiographical fiction writer writes. He keeps a slight distance, a light touch. Thanks to this gentlemanly reserve, what he says is intimate without ever becoming cloying. He does not tell you more than what you want to know. As his stories unfold, you can picture his gentle smile. If he had a dimple, it would deepen.”
Hayden Herrera, author of Upper Bohemia

Third Person Rural – SAVE 50%!

Further Essays of a Sometime Farmer

Essays on rural life that not only address the many how-to questions that bedevil country dwellers, but also the larger direction that life is taking on this planet.

Perrin, a transplanted New Yorker and now a “real” Vermonter, candidly admits his early mistakes while giving concrete advice on matters such as what to do with maple syrup (other than put it on your pancakes), how to use a peavey, and how to replace your rototiller with a garden animal.