All the Days and Nights: The Collected Stories

All the Days and Nights: The Collected Stories

by William Maxwell

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From the American Book Award-winning author of Ancestors and Time Will Darken comes a masterful collection of stories, spanning more than 50 years--a tour of a world that engages readers entirely, and whose characters command the deepest loyalty and tenderness.


From the American Book Award-winning author of Ancestors and Time Will Darken comes a masterful collection of stories, spanning more than 50 years--a tour of a world that engages readers entirely, and whose characters command the deepest loyalty and tenderness.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
For over six decades, Maxwell has scrupulously eschewed literary postures for a crystalline elegance almost unparalleled in contemporary American fiction. A New Yorker editor for 40 years and American Book Award recipient for his 1980 novel, So Long, See You Tomorrow, Maxwell has selected 23 short stories and 21 "improvisations" that he deems worth saving. All the tales from Over by the River and Other Stories (1977) and from Billie Dyer and Other Stories (1992) are included, as are 16 of the 29 improvisations originally published as The Old Man at the Railroad Crossing and Other Tales (1966). Three strong uncollected stories-"A Game of Chess," "The Lily-White Boys" and "What He Was Like"-as well as six new improvisations complete the group. Maxwell has always braided his family history into his storyteller's art, and the first section here draws much from his experiences as a boy in Lincoln, Ill. (where he was born in 1908), from time spent in France and from contemporary life in New York. In these stories, people frequently suffer under the misapprehension that they understand those around them, or even themselves, and are recurrently made restless by indefinable dreams or fears. The keys to deliverance are, invariably for Maxwell, compassion and love. The improvisations, which make up the second section, are ``spontaneous inventions'' created for special occasions, such as his wife's birthday, commemorated in the fine title piece. Many begin with "Once upon a time" and become linear, sometimes enigmatic fables for adults, illuminating issues of commitment, betrayal, death, personal responsibility and human kindness. This volume is conclusive evidence that Maxwell stands at the pinnacle of American letters. (Jan.)
Library Journal
In the preface to this collection of short fiction written over a period of 50 years, former New Yorker editor Maxwell (The Outermost Dreams: Essays and Reviews, LJ 4/15/89) tells of his youthful decision to go to sea to have something to write about, unaware that all the material he would ever need was right in front of him in the details of everyday life. A recurring theme in these wise, elegant stories is the difficulty of communication. In "A Game of Chess," two brothers trade backhanded compliments over dinner. In "The Value of Money," a grown-up son enjoys some quiet time with his father, knowing that every conceivable topic of conversation will lead to an argument. In "The Thistles in Sweden," a husband and wife find themselves able to say things to each other in French that they were incapable of saying in English. These deceptively simple and beautifully written stories resonate with meaning. Recommended for all fiction collections.-Edward B. St. John, Loyola Law Sch. Lib., Los Angelesmond
Donna Seaman
Maxwell has been called one of American literature's best-kept secrets, though he has a loyal and passionate following. Now his devoted fans as well as readers new to his quiet magic will be able to appreciate the full range of his storytelling powers. This majestic collection contains 23 stories written over the course of 53 years as well as a set of charming, fablelike "improvisations" written, as Maxwell explains in his preface, to "please" his wife. In each enveloping and poignant tale, Maxwell deftly traces the spiraling of emotions concealed within his restrained characters, embroidering his meticulous and beautifully modulated stories on the unevenly textured fabric of life itself, where fineness and coarseness are woven together in no reliable pattern. In "Over by the River," for example, a Manhattan family possesses all the accoutrements of a comfortable, happy life, but parents and children alike have nightmares, subconsciously attuned to the fact that the world is intrinsically unsafe. Time, change, and loss also occupy Maxwell's attention, a theme he explores to exquisite effect in "The Gardens of Mont-Saint-Michel," a story about an American family on vacation in France, and in "The Value of Money," one of Maxwell's masterful stories about Draperville, Illinois. In this tale, a man visiting his father is struck by the stories an old friend of the family tells him: "Dr. McBride understood the use of the surprising juxtaposition, the impact of things left unsaid." This, of course, describes Maxwell's gift to a tee.

Product Details

Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date:
Vintage International
Sold by:
Random House
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File size:
2 MB

What People are saying about this

Reynolds Price
Like their peers in the work of Tolstoy, Chekhov, Porter, and Welty, William Maxwell's stories slowly lure the reader into iron-clad but transparent rooms...

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