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My Mentor: A Young Man's Friendship with William Maxwellby Alec Wilkinson
Synopses & Reviews
At twenty-four, Alec Wilkinson decided that he wanted to write, so his father asked for the help of his closest friend, William Maxwell, widely regarded as one of the twentieth century's great American writers and an editor of fiction for forty years at The New Yorker. MY MENTOR is the story of a young man's education at the hands of a master and a heartbreaking meditation on the brave, graceful end of Maxwell's long and happy life - he died at ninety-one, in July 2000. Making use of biography, memoir, and essay, and writing in a lapidary but intimate voice, Wilkinson explores the deeply resonant friendship between the old man and the young one. His experience with Maxwell over the course of twenty-five years he takes as the occasion for a profound and moving reflection on writing, wisdom, fatherhood, love, courage, dignity, and the end that awaits us all.
"Wilkinson, a stately writer, gracious, quiet and steady ? a style perfect suited to his subject ? explores the nature of his profound relationship with Maxwell in this wonderful, wonderful book. It's a slim volume, ringing in at only 197 pages, but each page nourishes. Maxwell lived a long life and died a good death ? a death that was as "good" as any death can be. May we all die, thinking, as Maxwell once said, "I've had a very happy life." After finishing My Mentor, I felt expanded, and grateful in the knowledge that lives as quietly great as Maxwell's were possible. A profound portrait of a profound man." Adrienne Miller, Esquire (read the entire Esquire review)
"[B]eautiful, exact, significant prose...a permanent meditation on fathers and sons, on apprenticeship, and, above all, on loss." Adam Gopnik
"Elegant, engrossing, and soulful. Alec Wilkinson writes with more intensity and dedication than just about anyone." Ian Frazier
"An instance of human trust and connection, of enduring wisdom generously offered and gratefully received." Robert Coles
"[My Mentor is] an immersion in the virtues of wit, decency, justice, profound imagination and the mysteries of love and loyalty." Reynolds Price
"A loving, vivid memoir of a lovely man, whose spirit still touches those who knew him, and those who read him." John Updike
Book News Annotation:
At age 24, when Wilkinson embarked on what has become a successful career as a writer, he was offered help from family friend Maxwell (1908-2000), writer and editor at The New Yorker. Here he combines biography, memoir, and essay to convey their close relationship. He includes no bibliography or index.
Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
A compelling reflection on wisdom, friendship, and the craft of writing, My Mentor is also the touching story of a young man's education at the hands of a master, William Maxwell. At age twenty-four, Alec Wilkinson approached Maxwell in hopes of being taught to write. A quarter century of friendship followed.
As a fiction editor of The New Yorker, Maxwell was unquestionably one of the past century's most respected editors; as the author of the masterpieces They Came Like Swallows and So Long, See You Tomorrow, he was one of its greatest American writers. His unparalleled ear for language and eye for detail, his depth of understanding and experience, make his instructions on writing an essential guide to the craft. In honoring this great man of letters, Wilkinson creates a "deft and sympathetic portrait" (New York Times Book Review).
About the Author
Alec Wilkinson is the author of A Violent Act, Moonshine Midnights, and Big Sugar. A recipient of a Lyndhurst Prize, a Robert F. Kennedy Book Award, and a Guggenheim fellowship, he is a regular contributor to The New Yorker, Esquire, and other magazines. He lives in New York City.
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