cover image The Outermost Dream: Essays and Reviews

The Outermost Dream: Essays and Reviews

William F. Maxwell. Knopf Publishing Group, $19.95 (240pp) ISBN 978-0-394-57443-1

Maxwell is noted both for his 40 years as a fiction editor at the New Yorker and for his own short stories and novels (including the American Book Award-winning So Long, See You Tomorrow ). However, as a reviewer, he has preferred nonfiction books that ``tell what happened--what people said and did and wore and ate and hoped for and were afraid of, and in detail after often unimaginable detail . . . refresh our idea of existence and hold oblivion at arm's length.'' His 19 essays collected here discuss biographies, autobiographies, letters, diaries and memoirs, singling out such subjects as Colette's intense curiosity about the world and Byron's character as revealed in his financial accounts; Virginia Woolf's malicious tongue; and Giacometti's creative gloom. The ``outermost dream'' of the title refers to the published diary selections of the Reverend Francis Kilvert, an obscure 19th century English clergyman whose quiet life belied his startling dreams. Maxwell's scrupulously fair and gracefully written considerations of books offer a wealth of concise detail and an unerring sense of the influence of shaping events, patterns and character in life and literature. (Apr.)