This month's selections shared the common trait of being almost completely new to me. A few of them I had seen on shelves, but none were stories that I had any insight into nor authors that I was at all familiar with. Each of them has been a more than pleasant surprise, particularly Frederick Exley's A Fan's Notes (which I have yet to finish, but may join the ranks of my top 25 favorite novels of all time) and William Maxwell's So Long, See You Tomorrow. A sparse, but lyrical portrait of small communities and shared secrets and best friends and betrayals; Maxwell's tale is incisive and concise, what my retired detective and sheriff grandfather means when he says "short and sweet."
In less than 150 pages, the narrator looks back almost 50 years to a friend he has neither seen nor spoken to in all that time and to a murder and trial that sent them drifting apart. So Long is a slow burn; part mystery, part history; reminiscent of Daniel Woodrell's Winter's Bone and Philipp Meyer's American Rust. Maxwell could give lessons in "show, don't tell" and "less is more." His novel is course study in storytelling, with style, setting, tone, and characters all deftly handled and intimately drawn.