Another great find from Bangkok is William Maxwell’s So Long, See You Tomorrow, a slim novel that was published in two parts in The New Yorker in 1976. The autobiographical novel tells the story of a young boy growing up in the rural town of Lincoln, Illinois, whose mother dies of influenza and whose father remarries. The boy, who narrates the novel, forms a brief friendship with a young neighbor named Cletus Smith, the son of a murderer.
The book seems to be an ordinary tale of a murder in a small town in the early part of the century. It is told from the point of view of a man, now in his sixties, who is looking back on his friendship with the son of a murdered man. Simplicity itself.
“I never felt sophisticated,” the erudite and elderly Midwesterner explained to NPR’s Terry Gross in 1995. His modesty is certainly one reason why William Maxwell remains a connoisseur’s writer, never achieving the wider recognition he deserves. Yet Maxwell’s career was situated at the epicenter of American literature and letters: On staff at the New Yorker from 1936 to 1975, he was the editor of J.D. Salinger, Vladimir Nabokov, Eudora Welty, Frank O’Connor, John Cheever, and many other luminaries.