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So Long, See You Tomorrow (Vintage Classics) (original 1980; edition 2012)

by William Maxwell

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950409,142 (3.9)65
Member:regrettable
Title:So Long, See You Tomorrow (Vintage Classics)
Authors:William Maxwell
Info:Vintage Classics (2012), Paperback, 176 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:***
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So Long, See You Tomorrow by William Maxwell (1980)

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English (33)  Spanish (4)  Dutch (2)  German (1)  All languages (40)
Showing 1-5 of 33 (next | show all)
I liked the slow, easy pace of this book, but it won't stick with me. ( )
  klburnside | Aug 11, 2015 |
"Authentic" is a good one-word description of William Maxwell's So Long, See You Tomorrow--in part because the narrator's grief at losing his mother matches Maxwell's personal experience; and partly because its prose seems not to mediate between the story and the reader's apprehension of it. To read this novel is to be in touch with something honest and real, no matter how much or many of its events, thoughts, and utterances Maxwell has invented or embellished. Most importantly, So Long, See You Tomorrow gives us what we want, I believe, from every novel: emotional truth.

The image that will live for me always is that of a ten-year-old boy walking the floors with his father, his arm around the man's waist, every night after dinner. What are they looking for, the boy's mother, the man's wife having died? What problem can they resolve, what question answer by performing this rote passage from living room to front hall to library and back, or the other way 'round? Minds filled to distraction yet unthinking; bodies numb, hearts broken.

Grief is a powerful feeling. It is not pleasant but it is pure. Uncomplicated, unqualified. In writing this novel, Maxwell discovered a way to make a secret sharer of this most private of emotions. The narrator's abiding interest in Cletus and the circumstances leading to his father's suicide are a brave attempt by a person in pain to understand a similar pain felt by other. Perhaps by imagining Cletus's thoughts and feelings at losing the life he knew--his family, his home and way of living, finally a parent--Maxwell might better understand his own response to his mother's untimely death. "Other children could have borne it, have borne it," he writes almost at the end. "My older brother did, somehow. I couldn't." It seems impertinent, almost inhuman, to task Maxwell by asking him why he could not bear his mother's death--and yet, he seems to invite the reader to ask this question.

Did Cletus bear it? How? Maxwell doesn't know, exactly, having lost touch with his almost-friend, and then, more than a year later in a large high school in Chicago, having "done something I was ashamed of afterward"; that is, having failed to speak to Cletus upon encountering him unexpectedly in a school corridor, even just to tell him that his great secret was safe because also unspoken. Physically, Cletus has endured. The state of his mind, the nature of his feelings, Maxwell can only imagine. At that point, the boys seem to merge. Maxwell, undone as his father also was by loss (until the latter remarried), cannot believe in a suffering that is less than his own.

Just a few years previously, these two boys had played on the scaffolding at the construction site of Maxwell's family's new house. With the rooms framed-out and the plaster lathe not yet done, it was possible to pass from room to room by walking through "walls." No room could contain them; every entrance had many exists. Such magical comings and goings are not available in life. In life, a boy passes through a door only to find that he has entered a room he has not wanted to enter: the room where his mother dies; the room where his father kills a man, the man having taken away the father's wife; the room where his father kills himself with a pistol-shot, his body then dragged underwater by a heavy weight bound to waist and neck with baling wire. Life is "in itself and forever shipwreck."

Eighty-some years ago, James T. Farrell wrote a novel titled, A World I Never Made, in which a boy struggles to survive, to become himself and have something of his own life, in a world already established and fraught and in large part ruined. In So Long, See You Tomorrow, Maxwell and his not-so-secret sharer Cletus find themselves placed by circumstance in predicaments no one would choose. By not speaking to Cletus the last time he had the chance, Maxwell does not learn how his friend endured. Even before, in the unwalled house, "I didn't tell Cletus about my shipwreck ... and he didn't tell me about his." Is trauma estranging, even when it is mutual? Or are boys (and men) unwilling (or afraid) to confess weakness? By reading this novel, we witness one attempt to turn weakness into strength and dissolve grief in literary art--the one means Maxwell has found to free himself from his childhood's cruel deprivation and "by the grace of God lead his own life, undestroyed by what was not his doing."

~JL ( )
  bookie53 | Jul 26, 2015 |
"Authentic" is a good one-word description of William Maxwell's So Long, See You Tomorrow--in part because the narrator's grief at losing his mother matches Maxwell's personal experience; and partly because its prose seems not to mediate between the story and the reader's apprehension of it. To read this novel is to be in touch with something honest and real, no matter how much or many of its events, thoughts, and utterances Maxwell has invented or embellished. Most importantly, So Long, See You Tomorrow gives us what we want, I believe, from every novel: emotional truth.

The image that will live for me always is that of a ten-year-old boy walking the floors with his father, his arm around the man's waist, every night after dinner. What are they looking for, the boy's mother, the man's wife having died? What problem can they resolve, what question answer by performing this rote passage from living room to front hall to library and back, or the other way 'round? Minds filled to distraction yet unthinking; bodies numb, hearts broken.

Grief is a powerful feeling. It is not pleasant but it is pure. Uncomplicated, unqualified. In writing this novel, Maxwell discovered a way to make a secret sharer of this most private of emotions. The narrator's abiding interest in Cletus and the circumstances leading to his father's suicide are a brave attempt by a person in pain to understand a similar pain felt by other. Perhaps by imagining Cletus's thoughts and feelings at losing the life he knew--his family, his home and way of living, finally a parent--Maxwell might better understand his own response to his mother's untimely death. "Other children could have borne it, have borne it," he writes almost at the end. "My older brother did, somehow. I couldn't." It seems impertinent, almost inhuman, to task Maxwell by asking him why he could not bear his mother's death--and yet, he seems to invite the reader to ask this question.

Did Cletus bear it? How? Maxwell doesn't know, exactly, having lost touch with his almost-friend, and then, more than a year later in a large high school in Chicago, having "done something I was ashamed of afterward"; that is, having failed to speak to Cletus upon encountering him unexpectedly in a school corridor, even just to tell him that his great secret was safe because also unspoken. Physically, Cletus has endured. The state of his mind, the nature of his feelings, Maxwell can only imagine. At that point, the boys seem to merge. Maxwell, undone as his father also was by loss (until the latter remarried), cannot believe in a suffering that is less than his own.

Just a few years previously, these two boys had played on the scaffolding at the construction site of Maxwell's family's new house. With the rooms framed-out and the plaster lathe not yet done, it was possible to pass from room to room by walking through "walls." No room could contain them; every entrance had many exists. Such magical comings and goings are not available in life. In life, a boy passes through a door only to find that he has entered a room he has not wanted to enter: the room where his mother dies; the room where his father kills a man, the man having taken away the father's wife; the room where his father kills himself with a pistol-shot, his body then dragged underwater by a heavy weight bound to waist and neck with baling wire. Life is "in itself and forever shipwreck."

Eighty-some years ago, James T. Farrell wrote a novel titled, A World I Never Made, in which a boy struggles to survive, to become himself and have something of his own life, in a world already established and fraught and in large part ruined. In So Long, See You Tomorrow, Maxwell and his not-so-secret sharer Cletus find themselves placed by circumstance in predicaments no one would choose. By not speaking to Cletus the last time he had the chance, Maxwell does not learn how his friend endured. Even before, in the unwalled house, "I didn't tell Cletus about my shipwreck ... and he didn't tell me about his." Is trauma estranging, even when it is mutual? Or are boys (and men) unwilling (or afraid) to confess weakness? By reading this novel, we witness one attempt to turn weakness into strength and dissolve grief in literary art--the one means Maxwell has found to free himself from his childhood's cruel deprivation and "by the grace of God lead his own life, undestroyed by what was not his doing."

~JL ( )
  bookie53 | Jul 26, 2015 |
"Authentic" is a good one-word description of William Maxwell's So Long, See You Tomorrow--in part because the narrator's grief at losing his mother matches Maxwell's personal experience; and partly because its prose seems not to mediate between the story and the reader's apprehension of it. To read this novel is to be in touch with something honest and real, no matter how much or many of its events, thoughts, and utterances Maxwell has invented or embellished. Most importantly, So Long, See You Tomorrow gives us what we want, I believe, from every novel: emotional truth.

The image that will live for me always is that of a ten-year-old boy walking the floors with his father, his arm around the man's waist, every night after dinner. What are they looking for, the boy's mother, the man's wife having died? What problem can they resolve, what question answer by performing this rote passage from living room to front hall to library and back, or the other way 'round? Minds filled to distraction yet unthinking; bodies numb, hearts broken.

Grief is a powerful feeling. It is not pleasant but it is pure. Uncomplicated, unqualified. In writing this novel, Maxwell discovered a way to make a secret sharer of this most private of emotions. The narrator's abiding interest in Cletus and the circumstances leading to his father's suicide are a brave attempt by a person in pain to understand a similar pain felt by other. Perhaps by imagining Cletus's thoughts and feelings at losing the life he knew--his family, his home and way of living, finally a parent--Maxwell might better understand his own response to his mother's untimely death. "Other children could have borne it, have borne it," he writes almost at the end. "My older brother did, somehow. I couldn't." It seems impertinent, almost inhuman, to task Maxwell by asking him why he could not bear his mother's death--and yet, he seems to invite the reader to ask this question.

Did Cletus bear it? How? Maxwell doesn't know, exactly, having lost touch with his almost-friend, and then, more than a year later in a large high school in Chicago, having "done something I was ashamed of afterward"; that is, having failed to speak to Cletus upon encountering him unexpectedly in a school corridor, even just to tell him that his great secret was safe because also unspoken. Physically, Cletus has endured. The state of his mind, the nature of his feelings, Maxwell can only imagine. At that point, the boys seem to merge. Maxwell, undone as his father also was by loss (until the latter remarried), cannot believe in a suffering that is less than his own.

Just a few years previously, these two boys had played on the scaffolding at the construction site of Maxwell's family's new house. With the rooms framed-out and the plaster lathe not yet done, it was possible to pass from room to room by walking through "walls." No room could contain them; every entrance had many exists. Such magical comings and goings are not available in life. In life, a boy passes through a door only to find that he has entered a room he has not wanted to enter: the room where his mother dies; the room where his father kills a man, the man having taken away the father's wife; the room where his father kills himself with a pistol-shot, his body then dragged underwater by a heavy weight bound to waist and neck with baling wire. Life is "in itself and forever shipwreck."

Eighty-some years ago, James T. Farrell wrote a novel titled, A World I Never Made, in which a boy struggles to survive, to become himself and have something of his own life, in a world already established and fraught and in large part ruined. In So Long, See You Tomorrow, Maxwell and his not-so-secret sharer Cletus find themselves placed by circumstance in predicaments no one would choose. By not speaking to Cletus the last time he had the chance, Maxwell does not learn how his friend endured. Even before, in the unwalled house, "I didn't tell Cletus about my shipwreck ... and he didn't tell me about his." Is trauma estranging, even when it is mutual? Or are boys (and men) unwilling (or afraid) to confess weakness? By reading this novel, we witness one attempt to turn weakness into strength and dissolve grief in literary art--the one means Maxwell has found to free himself from his childhood's cruel deprivation and "by the grace of God lead his own life, undestroyed by what was not his doing."

~JL ( )
  bookie53 | Jul 26, 2015 |
"Authentic" is a good one-word description of William Maxwell's So Long, See You Tomorrow--in part because the narrator's grief at losing his mother matches Maxwell's personal experience; and partly because its prose seems not to mediate between the story and the reader's apprehension of it. To read this novel is to be in touch with something honest and real, no matter how much or many of its events, thoughts, and utterances Maxwell has invented or embellished. Most importantly, So Long, See You Tomorrow gives us what we want, I believe, from every novel: emotional truth.

The image that will live for me always is that of a ten-year-old boy walking the floors with his father, his arm around the man's waist, every night after dinner. What are they looking for, the boy's mother, the man's wife having died? What problem can they resolve, what question answer by performing this rote passage from living room to front hall to library and back, or the other way 'round? Minds filled to distraction yet unthinking; bodies numb, hearts broken.

Grief is a powerful feeling. It is not pleasant but it is pure. Uncomplicated, unqualified. In writing this novel, Maxwell discovered a way to make a secret sharer of this most private of emotions. The narrator's abiding interest in Cletus and the circumstances leading to his father's suicide are a brave attempt by a person in pain to understand a similar pain felt by other. Perhaps by imagining Cletus's thoughts and feelings at losing the life he knew--his family, his home and way of living, finally a parent--Maxwell might better understand his own response to his mother's untimely death. "Other children could have borne it, have borne it," he writes almost at the end. "My older brother did, somehow. I couldn't." It seems impertinent, almost inhuman, to task Maxwell by asking him why he could not bear his mother's death--and yet, he seems to invite the reader to ask this question.

Did Cletus bear it? How? Maxwell doesn't know, exactly, having lost touch with his almost-friend, and then, more than a year later in a large high school in Chicago, having "done something I was ashamed of afterward"; that is, having failed to speak to Cletus upon encountering him unexpectedly in a school corridor, even just to tell him that his great secret was safe because also unspoken. Physically, Cletus has endured. The state of his mind, the nature of his feelings, Maxwell can only imagine. At that point, the boys seem to merge. Maxwell, undone as his father also was by loss (until the latter remarried), cannot believe in a suffering that is less than his own.

Just a few years previously, these two boys had played on the scaffolding at the construction site of Maxwell's family's new house. With the rooms framed-out and the plaster lathe not yet done, it was possible to pass from room to room by walking through "walls." No room could contain them; every entrance had many exists. Such magical comings and goings are not available in life. In life, a boy passes through a door only to find that he has entered a room he has not wanted to enter: the room where his mother dies; the room where his father kills a man, the man having taken away the father's wife; the room where his father kills himself with a pistol-shot, his body then dragged underwater by a heavy weight bound to waist and neck with baling wire. Life is "in itself and forever shipwreck."

Eighty-some years ago, James T. Farrell wrote a novel titled, A World I Never Made, in which a boy struggles to survive, to become himself and have something of his own life, in a world already established and fraught and in large part ruined. In So Long, See You Tomorrow, Maxwell and his not-so-secret sharer Cletus find themselves placed by circumstance in predicaments no one would choose. By not speaking to Cletus the last time he had the chance, Maxwell does not learn how his friend endured. Even before, in the unwalled house, "I didn't tell Cletus about my shipwreck ... and he didn't tell me about his." Is trauma estranging, even when it is mutual? Or are boys (and men) unwilling (or afraid) to confess weakness? By reading this novel, we witness one attempt to turn weakness into strength and dissolve grief in literary art--the one means Maxwell has found to free himself from his childhood's cruel deprivation and "by the grace of God lead his own life, undestroyed by what was not his doing."

~JL ( )
  bookie53 | Jul 26, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 33 (next | show all)
Told from the viewpoint of an old man who feels guilt about his broken connection to a high-school friend after the friend suffers a terrible trauma, the story is sad, primal, deeply American. The writing is as clear and sharp as grain alcohol.
 
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The gravel pit was about a mile east of town, and the size of a small lake, and so deep that boys under sixteen were forbidden by their parents to swim there.
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What we, or at any rate what I, refer to confidently as memory - meaning a moment, a scene, a fact that has been subjected to a fixative and thereby rescued from oblivion - is really a form of storytelling that goes on continually in the mind and often changes with the telling. Too many conflicting emotional interests are involved for life ever to be wholly acceptable, and possibly it is the work of the storyteller to rearrange things so that they conform to this end. In any case, in talking about the past we lie with every breath we draw.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0679767207, Paperback)

In this magically evocative novel, William Maxwell explores the enigmatic gravity of the past, which compels us to keep explaining it even as it makes liars out of us every time we try. On a winter morning in the 1920s, a shot rings out on a farm in rural Illinois. A man named Lloyd Wilson has been killed. And the tenuous friendship between two lonely teenagers—one privileged yet neglected, the other a troubled farm boy—has been shattered.Fifty years later, one of those boys—now a grown man—tries to reconstruct the events that led up to the murder. In doing so, he is inevitably drawn back to his lost friend Cletus, who has the misfortune of being the son of Wilson's killer and who in the months before witnessed things that Maxwell's narrator can only guess at. Out of memory and imagination, the surmises of children and the destructive passions of their parents, Maxwell creates a luminous American classic of youth and loss.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:07:02 -0400)

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[In this book, the author] explores the enigmatic gravity of the past, which compels us to keep explaining it even as it makes liars out of us every time we try. On a winter morning in the 1920s, a shot rings out on a farm in rural Illinois. A man named Lloyd Wilson has been killed. And the tenuous friendship between two lonely teenagers - one privileged yet neglected, the other a troubled farm boy - has been shattered. Fifty years later, one of those boys - now a grown man - tries to reconstruct the events that led up to the murder. In doing so, he is inevitably drawn back to his lost friend Cletus, who had the misfortune of being the son of Wilson's killer and who in the months before witnessed things that Maxwell's narrator can only guess at. Out of memory and imagination, the surmises of children and the destructive passions of their parents, [the author] creates a [story] of youth and loss.-Back cover.… (more)

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