THE FOLDED LEAF by William Maxwell is not a book that’s subtle despite a blurb on the back describing it as being about a love triangle between two boys who grow up together and a girl they meet in college.
Nothing could be further from the truth. Actually, the two main characters, Spud who is good at sports and has a bit of an attitude and Lymie who is poor at sports and sickly but excellent at his studies are in a homosexual relationship.
When I say this, I don’t mean that this is implied. After all this book was written in 1945, when such things were not normally topics for the arts to address. However, this book describes things in a way that there should be no doubt about the relationship between Spud and Lymie. It’s amazingly open in that regard.
“He and Lymie were always the first ones to go up to the dorm. In the big icy cold bed, they clung to each other, shivering like puppies, until the heat of their bodies began to penetrate through the outing flannel of their pajamas and their heavy woolen bathrobes. Lymie slept on his right side and Spud curled against him, with his fists in the hollow of Lymie’s back”
In a way, this is a distraction as William Maxwell is one of the greatest American writers of the Twentieth Century. I wrote about him before here http://rgdinmalaysia.xanga.com/673512456/they-came-like-swallows-by-william-maxwell/
And still feel he is one of the greatest writers people have never heard about.
THE FOLDED LEAF shows all his strengths-An eye for every detail, an ability to shift mood with a minimum of verbiage, an understanding of how characters to really relate and connect to one another.
It’s a great work that doesn’t burden the story with points of high drama rather allowing the story to unfold naturally. A great editor for other’s people work in his lifetime (as editor of the New Yorker’s fiction page for 40 years which overshadowed his own writing career) his own writing showed the touch of an expert.