“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.
Max’s verdict in the opening round of The Morning News Tournament of Books has been posted. Which book did he pick, Gate at the Stairs or The Book of Night Women? Hop over to TMN to find out. And don’t miss the match commentary, which has some great additional discussion of both books.
“To get me through a 550-page collection, the stories must be very good indeed. These are.” When Lionel Shriver participated in our Year in Reading ritual several years back, she dedicated her reading diary to William Trevor, who just passed away. “Trevor’s writing is so perfect that you don’t even notice it’s perfect,” she wrote. “He mainlines pure narrative directly into your veins. The words never get in the way; the words, like their author, disappear.”
“I like a lot of things about being a woman, but there are times and ways it’s a prison, and sometimes I daydream about being out of that prison.” The Guardian has a crack Rebecca Solnit essay about clothing, gender, and of course, mansplaining. Pair with our review of Solnit’s The Faraway Nearby.
“Maybe our anointed literary books just have to be earnest ones because earnest ones showcase that soupçon of intelligence. Maybe humor isn’t felt to indicate a genuine commitment to looking smart.” Year in Reading alum Lydia Millet talks with Jenny Offill about humor writing, what books are “anointed” as modern classics, and Millet’s new book, Mermaids in Paradise.