The Happiness of Getting It Down Right

The Happiness of Getting It Down Right

Letters of Frank O'Connor and William Maxwell, 1945-1966

Book - 1996
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Baker & Taylor
A moving, witty collection of correspondence between William Maxwell and Frank O'Connor provides a fascinating portrait of a rich and enduring friendship and a study of the inner life of the writer from the perspective of two literary giants. 15,000 first printing.

Blackwell North Amer
In an interview in The Paris Review, O'Connor was asked the question "How do you start a story?" and his answer was "Get black on white, used to be Maupassant's advice - that's what I always do. I don't give a hoot what the writing's like." Though in fact he did. Opposed to this belief in spontaneity and the importance of form over finicky detail was The New Yorker's insistence that a given piece of writing be as nearly perfect as humanly possible, down to the last semicolon and comma. Sitting at a table in Maxwell's office with pages of manuscript scattered before them or galleys with dozens of queries - some helpful, some exasperating - from the proofreader, the two men would work their way deeper and deeper into the material.
In this book there are intimate telegrams, delighted letters of acceptance, announcements of checks sent to O'Connor's literary agent (like Robert Louis Stevenson, O'Connor suffered from the delusion that he was being overpaid). Problems of clarity arise - of what will fly in Ireland but not in America. The excitement of cutting this and restoring that, of correcting corrections.
Halfway through their correspondence, in 1958, the tables are turned. Maxwell finds himself in despair over the novel he has been working on for eight years, and it is O'Connor who comes to the rescue by reading the various drafts, alternative versions, false starts, dead ends, and by his enthusiasm and concern restores Maxwell's confidence. As the professional relationship turns into a profound friendship, domestic details of their respective households begin to creep into the correspondence and are both vivid and amusing.

& Taylor

Letters between William Maxwell and Frank O'Connor provides a portrait of an enduring friendship and a study of the inner life of the writer

Publisher: New York : A. A. Knopf, 1996
Edition: 1st ed
ISBN: 9780679446590
Characteristics: xiii, 282 p. : ill. ; 22 cm


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