William Maxwell: “Being an editor, I looked for whatever was unnecessary in my own writing”

From The Writer’s Almanac:

It’s the birthday of novelist and editor William Maxwell. He was born in Lincoln, Illinois, and his writing features small-town, middle-American life in the early 20th century. He joined the staff of The New Yorker in 1936 and he worked there for 40 years, first in the art department and later as a fiction editor.

He was beloved by such contributors as John Cheever, J.D. Salinger, Vladimir Nabokov, and John Updike. Working with their manuscripts had a side benefit: “I came, as a result of being an editor, to look for whatever was unnecessary in my own writing,” he said. “After 40 years, what I came to care about most was not style, but the breath of life.”

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