So Long, See You Tomorrow, by William Maxwell (Harvill, £5.99 in UK)


When one Illinois tenant farmer discovers his wife is having an affair with his friend, another farmer, he kills the lover. This crime is at the heart of Maxwell's intense, complex study of loneliness. In it an elderly man recalls the murder which was committed by the father of a boy he had played with more than fifty years earlier. Of equal interest to him is his own subsequent behaviour. Now 90, William Maxwell was a fiction editor at the New Yorker, whose gifted charges included John Updike, John Cheever and Eudora Welty. First published in 1980, this bleak, elegiac work, told through a series of flashbacks which eventually fit together like a Greek tragedy, is the story of a specific incident as well as an account of one man's slow passage to self knowledge. Occasionally fiction achieves perfection. Here's an example.