A Family Patriarch Finally Gets His Due

From Boston University’s alumni magazine:

When author Stewart O’Nan introduced readers to his fictional Maxwell clan in 2002’s Wish You Were Here, the family patriarch, Henry Maxwell, had recently died. In that novel and again in 2011’s Emily, Alone, readers caught only glimpses of Henry in the memories of his surviving family members. In O’Nan’s new novel, Henry, Himself (Viking, 2019), Henry finally gets his due.

“The book is about revealing who he actually is,” says O’Nan (ENG’83). “Not what other people say he is, but the way he feels and thinks.”

O’Nan hadn’t expected to return to the Maxwells. The author of 18 novels, he has tackled vastly different subjects and settings in each of his books: fast food shift workers in Last Night at the Lobster and the last days of writer F. Scott Fitzgerald in West of Sunset. When he started Wish You Were Here, O’Nan says, he intended it to be about Henry’s recently widowed wife, Emily. But he found the other characters—Henry’s sister, Arlene, his children, Kenny and Margaret, and his grandchildren—vying for his attention. Nine years later, in Emily, Alone, he chronicled Emily’s life as a widow. But there was something about Henry that kept nagging at him. He decided it was time to go back and see what he could discover about him.

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Interview: Thirty Odd Minutes With Stewart O’Nan

From Knock and Know All:

At fifty-eight years young, Stewart O’Nan has seen seventeen of his works of fiction published along with two non-fiction books, one of which is Faithful [with Stephen King] a best-selling bleachers-eye-view of the first championship season for the Boston Red Sox since Babe Ruth was traded. All of this since he, with the full support of his saintly wife, Trudy, abandoned his career as an Aerospace engineer to earn his MFA, ultimately publishing his first collection of short stories In The Walled City [Drew Heinz Literary Prize] in 1993.

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Chicago Tribune: How F. Scott Fitzgerald went from washed up to winner again

In the Chicago Tribune:

Hollywood doesn’t have a benevolent reputation when it comes to nurturing novelists, but F. Scott Fitzgerald, it seems, had little grounds for complaint.

In fact, the down-on-his-luck writer used the opportunity to work as a highly paid day laborer on screenplays including “Gone with the Wind” to rejuvenate himself personally and professionally before his sudden death at the age of 44. Those rewarding final years in Hollywood are the subject of Stewart O’Nan’s 14th novel “West of Sunset” and appearance March 21 at novelist Elizabeth Berg’s Writing Matters event at the Hemingway Museum in Oak Park.

We caught up with O’Nan for a few quick questions about Fitzgerald, “West of Sunset” and his admiration for people who react to dire circumstances with resilience and endurance.

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And a reminder:

Author Stewart O’Nan discusses his novel ‘West of Sunset’

7 p.m. March 21

Hemingway Museum, 200 N. Oak Park Ave., Oak Park

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