My favorite writer is William Maxwell and in 1997 I wanted to send him a copy of my book "Track Conditions" which is a memoir about my time on the racetrack and the afterwards which is about getting sober which I found out is called sobriety. I supposed there are alcoholics that know that word before going in, but I didn't. I didn't know the word and I didn't know the world. I sent the book to Maxwell because he'd made me so happy as a reader and, in some way, and because this was my first book of prose, he must have influenced the writing. I never thought he would read the book, the way I never think I'll read most of the books I either buy or get into the house somehow. But we have to have them, don't we? We have to read them because we're writers. Books are water. Eventually, I will read every book I own, but not yet because I am either writing something or reading another one. And so, I am always -- aren't we always -- reading more than one book at any given time and newspapers and magazines to touch somehow, loosely, what's going on outside the life we make as readers and writers. And then, if we are teachers, there is all that reading and everything just stacks up. I have been reading so much lately that I want to go on strike and just be a writer and make a sign that says I HAVE READ ENOUGH now that I never have to read anymore. I've read a variation of it all. I know enough to write anything I'll ever need or want to write. I read more than I can possibly turn into writing.
Anyway, Maxwell actually did read my book. And then he actually wrote me a letter which I framed and I suffered over the frame and finally decided that I wanted everything around the typescript to be white so that the crossed-out words would stand out. The letter hangs over my "writing" desk, which is really not a writing desk because Andrew and I both use it for whatever we need a "desk" for. I have never had a writing desk in my entire life that I have been a writer. I have also never gone to a colony and or had lunches delivered to me in a picnic basket that birds have magically set down at my front door at an appointed hour. I have written on the flat surfaces in the places where it has been moderately quiet and for periods that seemed that like I might not be interrupted.
Here's the letter Maxwell wrote me. It's my Pulitzer prize.