Tag: william maxwell

William Maxwell, “The Value of Money” (1964)


william maxwell value of money

Naperville. (Eli Hodapp)

Edward Ferrers, or Ned, is visiting his father, always referred to as Mr. Ferrers, as he does only once every three years. The town is Draperville, Illinois, Maxwell’s fictional town rhyming with Naperville. Mer. Ferrers is a hard man, moderate in all things except his fanatical Republican convictions and his fanaticism about money. He wants his son to be responsible with money. He is a widower, remarried. The story is built on the father-son dualism, the tension between theĀ revenant and the patriarch, the discomfort with small-town boosterism reflected in the father’s small-town obsessions, though as the visit progresses, tension loosens between father and son, so that when the son repays the father for a brief loan, the father tears up the check, a gesture never imagined before.

The New Yorker, June 6, 1964

Maxwell, “A Final Report” (1963)

william maxwell

It seems preposterous to be readingĀ the American short story and not include William Maxwell, who in his younger years had that Matthew Broderick-Ferris Bueller look. Error corrected. “A Final Report” is an inventory of a life remembered at the more intimate margins of a probate report. The narrator is remembering. The life remembered is that of Pear M. Donald, who never married, who was a neighbor of the narrator’s family, and who became Aunt Donald and the narrator’s mother best friend until the two women had a mysterious falling out. The story is a look back from her old age: “It took her almost twenty years of not wanting to live anymore,” a line right out of Trevor’s “The General’s Day.” There are memories of the narrator’s childhood from the time she carried him on a pillow when he was sickly, but mostly it’s an account of her decline, her cats, her house, in the elegiac prose of terminal loneliness: “she must have subsisted on air and old memories and fear–the fear of something happening to her cats.” The story ends on what could have been a dry account of the financial settlement of her estate. It isn’t. Each dollar sign is the cremated remains of a long possession, and these final lines: “It would have been a pleasure to go through Aunty Donald’s things, up to a point, and after that probably nauseating. This is the past unillumined by memory or love. The sediment of days, what covered Troy and finally would have covered her if my brother hadn’t come and taken her away.”