“No two mornings are ever quite the same. Some are cold and dark and rainy, and some—a great many, in fact—are like the beginning of the world. First the idea of morning comes, and then, though it is still utterly dark and you can’t see your hand in front of your face, a rooster crows, and you’d swear it was a mistake, because it is another twenty minutes before the first light, when the rooster crows again and again, and soon after that the birds begin, praising the feathered god who made them. With their whole hearts, every single bird in creation. And then comes the grand climax. The sky turns red, and the great fiery ball comes up over the eastern horizon. After which there is a coda. The birds repeat their praise, one bird at a time, and the rooster gives one last, thoughtful crow, and the beginning of things comes to an end.” – William Maxwell, “The lamplighter”

“Characters in fiction are seldom made out of whole cloth. A little of this person and something of that one and whatever else the novelist’s imagination suggests is how they come into being. The novelist hopes that by avoiding actual appearances and actual names (which are so much more convincing than the names he invents for them), by making tall people short and red-headed people blond, that sort of thing, the sources of the composite character will not be apparent.” – William Maxwell, “The Front and the Back Parts of the House”

“The view after seventy is breathtaking. What is lacking is someone, anyone, of the older generation to whom you can turn when you want to satisfy your curiosity about some detail of the landscape of the past. There is no longer any older generation. You have become it, while your mind was mostly on other matters.” – William Maxwell, “The Man in the Moon” (emphasis in original)

“I had no idea that three-quarters of the material I would need for the rest of my writing life was already at my disposal. My father and mother. My brothers. The cast of larger-than-life characters—affectionate aunts, friends of the family, neighbors white and black—that I was presented with when I came into the world. The look of things. The weather. Men and women long at rest in the cemetery but vividly remembered. The Natural History of home: the suede glove on the front-hall table, the unfinished game of solitaire, the oriole’s nest suspended from the tip of the outermost branch of the elm tree, dandelions in the grass. All there, waiting for me to learn my trade and recognize instinctively what would make a story or sustain the complicated cross-weaving of longer fiction.” – William Maxwell, “Preface,” All the Days and Nights