A Young Man's Friendship with William Maxwell
By Alec Wilkinson
(Houghton Mifflin, Hardcover, 9780618123018, 192pp.)
Publication Date: April 2002
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At twenty-four, Alec Wilkinson decided that he wanted to write, so his father asked for the help of his closest friend, William Maxwell, widely regarded as one of the twentieth century's great American writers and an editor of fiction for forty years at The New Yorker. MY MENTOR is the story of a young man's education at the hands of a master and a heartbreaking meditation on the brave, graceful end of Maxwell's long and happy life - he died at ninety-one, in July 2000. Making use of biography, memoir, and essay, and writing in a lapidary but intimate voice, Wilkinson explores the deeply resonant friendship between the old man and the young one. His experience with Maxwell over the course of twenty-five years he takes as the occasion for a profound and moving reflection on writing, wisdom, fatherhood, love, courage, dignity, and the end that awaits us all.
"A loving, vivid memoir of a lovely man, whose spirit still touches those who knew him, and those who read him." -- John Updike
" [My Mentor is] an immersion in the virtues of wit, decency, justice, profound imagination and the mysteries of love and loyalty."--Reynolds Price
"[B]eautiful, exact, significant prose . . . a permanent meditation on fathers and sons, on apprenticeship, and , above all, on loss."--Adam Gopnik
"Elegant, engrossing, and soulful. Alec Wilkinson writes with more intensity and dedication than just about anyone."--Ian Frazier
"[MY MENTOR is a] brilliant and affecting masterwork. I can't think of another memoir to match its selfless candor and lyric grace."--Patricia Hampl
"An instance of human trust and connection, of enduring wisdom generously offered and gratefully received." -- Robert Coles