Chances are you’ve heard that the most important thing a writer needs to make it in the modern lit world is luck. Undoubtedly, there’s a lot of truth to that, but what if there’s another factor that has a bigger impact on a writer’s success? Sean McElwee argues for the importance of something more prosaic.
“Maurice Sendak drew his partner Eugene after he died, as he had drawn his family members when they were dying. The moment is one he was compelled to capture, pin down, understand, see. Where many— maybe most—people look away, he wanted to render. He was very wrapped up in the goodbye, the flight, the loss; it was almost Victorian, to be so deeply entranced with the moment of death, the instinct to preserve or document it. It’s also the artist’s impulse: to turn something terrible into art, to take something you are terrified of and heartbroken by and make it into something else. For the time it takes to draw what is in front of you, you are not helpless or a bystander or bereft: You are doing your job.” On Maurice Sendak and the art of death.
The short shelf of books written by Jane Austen has been recently supplemented by many imaginative efforts–Jane Austen as an amateur detective, and several works depicting Austen characters (or Jane herself) as a vampire, a zombie or some other Gothic monster. So what’s next? Death Comes to Pemberley by P.D. James is Pride and Prejudice continued.
A while back, our own Mark O’Connell argued that Flann O’Brien, in The Poor Mouth, was the funniest writer who ever lived. Now, in an essay, Erin Somersin says the title should go to Mordecai Richler instead. She writes about the Canadian author’s unique sense of humor in a piece for the Ploughshares blog.