Skip to main content

The Art Of Memory

March 2023
1min read

All the Days and Nights
The Collected Stories

by William Maxwell, Alfred A. Knopf, 415 pages .

William Maxwell was born in 1908 into a Midwest that Sherwood Anderson was still hard at work describing. He later spent four decades at The New Yorker editing short stories about urban sophisticates and country husbands by some of the greatest writers of his age, but he never let go of his fascination with Wilson-era Illinois. He wrote his own memorable short stories set in Eastern suburbs or among Americans in Europe, but he always kept returning to his boyhood town, most often called Lincoln. “The fact that I had not lived there since I was fourteen years old sealed off my memories of it,” he writes, “and made of it a world I knew no longer existed, that seemed always available for storytelling.” Maxwell’s language is stripped down almost bare, and the quiet poetry remains—heightened, even, by the spareness and compression. In affecting stories about a young black doctor starting his Illinois practice after the Great War, a strike by small-town newsboys, a charming uncle who borrows money, the poetry is in the things recalled. “Though it took me a while to realize it,” he writes, “I had a good father. He left the house early Tuesday morning carrying his leather grip, which was heavy with printed forms, and walked downtown to the railroad station. As the Illinois state agent for a small fire and windstorm insurance company he was expected to make his underwriting experience available to local agents in Freeport, Carbondale, Alton, Carthage, Dixon, Quincy, and so on. . . . Three nights out of every week he slept in godforsaken commercial hotels that overlooked the railroad tracks and when he turned over in the dark he heard the sound of the ceiling fan and railway cars being shunted. He knew the state of Illinois the way I knew our house and yard.”

Maxwell took over that territory and the long-vanished people who lived there. From his own sure knowledge of both he has made an American literature.

We hope you enjoy our work.

Please support this 72-year tradition of trusted historical writing and the volunteers that sustain it with a donation to American Heritage.


Stories published from "May/June 1995"

Authored by: The Editors

Salvation on Sand Mountain: Snake Handling and Redemption in Southern Appalachia

Authored by: The Editors

All the Days and Nights
The Collected Stories

Authored by: The Editors

Reporting the War
The Journalistic Coverage of World War II

Authored by: The Editors

Rich Relations: The American Occupation of Britain, 1942-1945

Authored by: The Editors

Bud Powell
The Complete Blue Note and Roost Recordings

Authored by: The Editors

The Jazz Scene

Authored by: The Editors

Why Elvis?

Authored by: The Editors

Times Ain’t like They Used to Be: Early Rural & Popular American Music From Rare Original Film Masters (1928-35)

Authored by: The Editors

The Belle of Amherst

Authored by: The Editors

Day One

Featured Articles

Famous writers including Emerson, Thoreau, Hawthorne, and the Alcotts turned Sleepy Hollow Cemetery into our country’s first conservation project.

Native American peoples and the lands they possessed loomed large for Washington, from his first trips westward as a surveyor to his years as President.

In his Second Inaugural Address, Abraham Lincoln embodied leading in a time of polarization, political disagreement, and differing understandings of reality.

A hundred years ago, America was rocked by riots, repression, and racial violence.

During Pres. Washington’s first term, an epidemic killed one tenth of all the inhabitants of Philadelphia, then the capital of the young United States.

Now a popular state park, the unassuming geological feature along the Illinois River has served as the site of centuries of human habitation and discovery.  

The recent discovery of the hull of the battleship Nevada recalls her dramatic action at Pearl Harbor and ultimate revenge on D-Day as the first ship to fire on the Nazis.

Our research reveals that 19 artworks in the U.S. Capitol honor men who were Confederate officers or officials. What many of them said, and did, is truly despicable.

Here is probably the most wide-ranging look at Presidential misbehavior ever published in a magazine.

When Germany unleashed its blitzkreig in 1939, the U.S. Army was only the 17th largest in the world. FDR and Marshall had to build a fighting force able to take on the Nazis, against the wishes of many in Congress.

Roast pig, boiled rockfish, and apple pie were among the dishes George and Martha enjoyed during the holiday in 1797. Here are some actual recipes.

Born during Jim Crow, Belle da Costa Greene perfected the art of "passing" while working for one of the most powerful men in America.