So Long, See You Tomorrow

So Long, See You Tomorrow

by William Maxwell

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Overview

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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780679767206
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date: 01/28/1996
Series: Vintage International Series
Pages: 144
Sales rank: 152,329
Product dimensions: 5.15(w) x 7.95(h) x 0.38(d)

About the Author

William Maxwell was born in 1908 in Lincoln, Illinois. He studied at the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign, and after earning a master's at Harvard, returned there to teach freshman composition before turning to writing. He published six novels, three collections of short fiction, an autobiographical memoir, a collection of literary essays and reviews, and a book for children. For 40 years, he was a fiction editor at The New Yorker. From 1969 to 1972 he was president of the National Institute of Arts and Letters. He received the Brandeis Creative Arts Award Medal and, for So Long, See You Tomorrow, the American Book Award and the Howells Medal of the American Academy of Arts and Letters. He died in 2000.

Read an Excerpt

On an Illinois farm in the 1920s, a man is murdered, and in the same moment the tenous friendship between two lonely boys comes to an end. In telling their interconnected stories, American Book Award winner William delivers a masterfully restrained and magically evocative meditation on the past. "A small, perfect novel."—Washington Post Book World.

What People are Saying About This

Michael Ondaatje

This is one of the great books of our age. It is the subtlest of miniatures that contains our deepest sorrows and truths and love—all caught in a clear, simple style in perfect brushstrokes.

John Updike

What a lovely book, utterly unlike any other in shape I have ever read.

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So Long, See You Tomorrow 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 16 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The narrator displays many emotions throughout the book. It is a murder mystery yet at the same time the storyline deplicts a past that the narrator cannot let go of. The book shows how a man cannot let go of his mothers absence in his life and how he finds it difficult to make friends. The twist of the book brings it to life, and the memories of his childhood show the truths of how a child visualizes life and their parents.
LynnB on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Such a moving and compelling story -- in 135 pages.So Long, See You Tomorrow is written from the point of view of a grown man who is coming to grips with his childhood. His mother died of pneumonia when he was young. As a lonely child recently moved into town, he befriends young Cletus Smith. Cletus's life changes when his father Clarence commits murder. Clarence shoots his former best friend, Lloyd Wilson, then kills himself because he is in love with Lloyd's wife. (This isn't a spoiler -- we know this from the beginning of the novel.)What the story is really about his how things that happen in our childhood can affect us for the rest of our lives. It is about the profound effects, not only of death and murder, but of smaller incidents such as refusing to acknowledge a classmate in the hallway. Sharply written. I feel like the incidents described happened to people I know.
hemlokgang on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
November 2009 Book club selection.......I really liked this novella. It is poignant study of loss and the tricks of memory, and of the way in which people, particularly children, are vulnerable to the consequences of actions taken by others. This book reminds us that life changes on a dime, and when we casually say, "So long, see you tomorrow", we might not, and even if we do we may not recognize you.
arubabookwoman on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This short novel begins with a murder. We know from the beginning who did it, and as the novel unfolds we learn why. Forty years after the event, the narrator, who was a youth at the time of the murder, looks back at that time of his life, particularly his friendship with the son of the murderer, and wonders if he should have reacted differently."When the look of the sky informed us that it was getting along toward suppertime, we climbed down and said, 'So long,' and 'See you tomorrow,' and went our separate ways in the dusk. And one evening this casual parting proved to be for the last time. We were separated by that pivotal shot."Most of us can look back at our childhood or youth when we may have hurt someone, perhaps unknowingly or callously, by our actions or inactions. As we mature may recognize this, feel guilty, and want to "do it over." That's what this book is about. Very little happens other than what goes on in the narrator's mind. It isn't a book that I couldn't put down, or one that spoke deeply to me. It was just a brief reminder of things we may regret, and how abruptly and quickly our lives can change forever.
AndrewBlackman on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I love Harvill Press. Normally I don¿t pay a lot of attention to the publishers, because I find most of them produce roughly the same mix of books I love, books I hate and books I don¿t care about. But with Harvill, I know for sure that every time I see that little panther symbol, I can be assured of enjoying the book. I think the first Harvill book I read was The Leopard by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa, and then there was Broken April by Ismail Kadare and Doctor Zhivago by Boris Pasternak and a whole load of others. Now, like everyone else, it has been swallowed up by Random House, and I don¿t think the panther is used any more.So when I saw the familiar little panther symbol on the spine of this book in Fawkes bookshop in Hampstead, I decided almost immediately to buy it, even though I¿d never heard of William Maxwell before. On top of the panther, it was the first line that hooked me:¿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. I knew it only by hearsay.¿Very simple words, but they communicate immediately the major elements of the story: something bad will happen in the gravel pit, affecting the childhood of this boy under sixteen who has been forbidden to go there. The story continues in this vein, with men at the gravel pit hearing a gunshot in the early morning, and from there a murder is described, all in the same simple, restrained, non-sensational language. The narrator is an old man now, looking back on it all and feeling guilty for ignoring the son of the murderer, who he had been friends with before the murder, when he saw him again later on.It¿s a short book, just 135 pages, but it felt longer. I don¿t mean that in a bad way, that it dragged on too long. I mean that, just as the first line communicated so much in a short space, so the rest of the story seems to cover a lot of ground, to make you know the characters better than you know characters in a lot of books three times as long. The language is unhurried, too, with long digressions and asides ¿ most of the first half doesn¿t deal with the murder story at all, but with the narrator¿s childhood. I got to the end and wondered how on earth Maxwell had managed to cram so much into such a short book without ever sounding rushed.One of the quotes on the inside cover is from John Updike: ¿Maxwell¿s voice is one of the wisest in American fiction; it is, as well, one of the kindest.¿ I can see exactly what he meant. The book deals with murder, infidelity, jealousy, betrayal of a friend, and yet all of the characters who are doing the murdering and betraying are sympathetic in some way. He communicates the injustice of the tenant farmers¿ positions, but gives the landlords their side of the story too, and doesn¿t make them into stock figures. He is kind to all of his characters and gives them all a voice ¿ even the dog gets a few paragraphs from his point of view. This doesn¿t diminish the drama, but it does feel more real than a story that plays up the good vs evil dichotomy. It conveys life in all its complexities, and in the end I felt sorrier for the murderer than for his victim.
JimmyChanga on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I listened to a story on NPR the other day about how the police can often tell if a suspect is lying because the lies are elaborated fully with so much detail, as if to make up for the fabrication, whereas the truth is often very simple.This book reminded me of that because it is elaborate and full of detail, from the history of the town to the history of each character to the description of one thing or another that strikes the reader as something nobody would just make up, so that the world seems totally complete and real. At the same time, it is telling a simple story, but in a roundabout way. And the voice is so compelling, the tone so convincing, so filled with the seemingly trivial, that it reads like a memoir. It's a subtle, quiet, and understated writing style that reminded me a bit of Gilead.Thinking about it now, it seems interesting because this air of truth comes from a refreshing lack of artifice in the construction/style. And yet there is plenty of artifice; in fact, this book is exactly about artifice, yet the directness and the genuineness of its tone makes it the antithesis of cleverness.The novel takes a weird form. It starts with the narrator telling us of his childhood, the town he grew up in, his father, brother, mother, stepmother, the second house they moved into (temporarily), the house they had built and moved into eventually, then the school he went to when they moved again to Chicago. All the while, he weaves in the story of two families that lived in the same town, a story of a murder that he knew only from hearsay and from old news stories he has collected (the narrator is now older; he is looking back as he is retelling this story). His own link to the story of these two families is a very brief one: he was friends with the son of one of the families in the way children are often friends... playmates.Then, the novel takes a turn. It starts telling the story of these two families, not from a distance or with facts from news clips like it did in the first pages, but from an intimate and imagined perspective. In fact, the narrator admits to fabricating all these details to satisfy his story, or because there is something in this story that has haunted him all these years. After a while, you begin to forget that this is his version of a story he couldn't have possibly known so intimately because the details are so strong, the characters so fully fleshed and sympathetic. The bulk of the book, in fact, lives in this other story that he recalls/imagines. And it is a sad story, of course, but one that is also rich in a way that the summary of what happened in the beginning of the book cannot be: the characters are made so human that you feel genuinely sorry for each of them. Noone is the villain here.After finishing the book, I can't help but wonder about the way this book was written. Why did the author choose to wrap this intriguing story around another less intriguing story, by having it be told by a narrator who wasn't there? Exactly because the two stories really do interact, albeit not in a direct way. The narrator's own less dramatic story of his mother's death and having to deal with the everyday betrayal of having a new step-mother who happens to be a good person (thus, he can't even hate her for it) is something that can happen to nearly anybody, and is an emotional and cruel experience for a child even though it is totally accepted by society and not talked about much since it is the norm. But the emotions of his almost normal childhood has enabled him to empathize, then and now, with this other boy who had a much more public and dramatic betrayal within his family. In a way, this story is very much about memory, artifice, empathy, and guilt (the outside story) as much as it is about betrayal, infidelity, murder, and the cruelty of fate (the inside stories).I do want to point out that I read this about 5 years ago, and didn't recall a single thing about
bobbieharv on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I had never read this classic book. A tragic story, of two farmers and friends, one of whom kills the other because he (the latter) had fallen in love with his wife. Spare, intense, clear writing - a perfect miniature book (135 pages). I think I'd like to read The Chateau by him.
melopher on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Published more than 40 years after They Came Like Swallows, So Long, See You Tomorrow seems to somewhat continue the story of the the main character. Apparently many of William Maxwell's novels are highly autobiographical, which goes a long way to explaining why is writing is so clear and piercing. This heartbreaking story shows quite clearly how decisions that you may believe will affect only you can spiral into something much bigger and end up with physical and emotional consequences for more people than you could have predicted.
Brasidas on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is a little masterpiece of narrative compression. Though the book is only 135 pages long, it can seem at times that whole paragraphs of unspoken intimation fill every line, every image. The plot will not give a sense of the high level of mastery involved here, but here it is anyway. In the early 1920s one married farmer befriends another married farmer then steals his wife. Both marriages break up. The adulterous wife sues her husband for divorce and wins on grounds of maltreatment. This poor guy--Clarence Smith--he's been used by everyone: his best friend, his wife, and now the court system, since he cannot admit in open court that he has been cuckolded, to use that archaic and somewhat ridiculous term. The funny thing is that It's essentially a love-triangle murder mystery without the mystery, since we know from the start who does what. Not so much a whodunit then, as a whydoit. (Martin Amis' LONDON FIELDS is also this sort of novel, though vastly different in narrative structure, mechanics, diction and so on.) What's fascinating is William Maxwell's ability to produce gripping suspense even though we know what's going to happen next. I can't figure out how he actually does it so will have to read it again soon.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
So Long, See You Tomorrow was an okay book. It recreated the happenings before the murder very nicely. Although, it was kind of confusing I would recomend it to people who like historical fiction.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I liked this story. It was interesting and enjoyable.
Guest More than 1 year ago
So Long See You Tomorrow is a weird book, it talks about different things. It mostly talks about his mother dying and how he hates his step-mother. It gets really confusing towards the end of the book, the auther who wrote this book does not have anything organized so you get lost in the book, but other than that I think its pretty good.