‘The Patterns Of Love’ by William Maxwell

The Patterns Of Love by William Maxwell, 1945

The magic trick:

Writing with a great gentleness

William Maxwell writes with so much gentleness. His stories remind me a little bit of Belle and Sebastian music. You can understand if someone finds it a bit too precious or twee. But I don’t have to agree.

We need art like this. We need life to be more like this.

The idea here is that the Talbot family creates patterns of love. The story posits that it’s this family and their tracks – even their pets and animals around the property – follow each other around, care about each other, and combine to form patterns of love.

It’s a very nice idea.

It’s very twee.

But so what? It can’t all be Hemingway and Carver.

And that’s quite a trick on Maxwell’s part.

The selection:

Duncan wandered off into a solitary world of his own, and Arnold, after yawning twice, got up and went into the house. Stretched out on the bed in his room, with the Venetian blinds closed, he began to compare the life of the Talbots with his own well-ordered but childless and animalless life in town. Everywhere they go, he thought, they leave tracks behind them, like people walking in the snow. Paths crisscrossing, lines that are perpetually meeting: the mother’s loving pursuit of her youngest, the man’s love for his daughter, the dog’s love for the man, and two boys’ preoccupation with each other. Wheels and diagrams, Arnold said to himself. The patterns of love.

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