Happiness of Getting It Down Right, The  Letters of Frank O'Connor and William Maxwell, 1945-1966

Happiness of Getting It Down Right, The Letters of Frank O'Connor and William Maxwell, 1945-1966

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O'Connor (the pen name of Michael O'Donovan, 1903-66) was a master of the modern short story, and the New Yorker published over 50 of his best. Maxwell, a published writer himself, served as O'Connor's editor, but, as these letters show, he was much more than an editor. As O'Connor's stories developed under the gentle prodding of Maxwell's suggestions, the two men and their families became deep and close friends throughout the last years of O'Connor's life. Conversely, O'Connor read Maxwell's work-in-progress and helped to center Maxwell's novel, The Chateau, from formless mass to final polished version. Although Maxwell was a consummate editor and deeply familiar with O'Connor's work, his many detailed letters are often not completely matched by answers from O'Connor here, and we end up learning far more about Maxwell and the publication of the New Yorker than we do about how the editing was reflected in O'Connor's stories. Still, this is a fascinating look at the art of editing and at literature at midcentury.