Monday, February 11, 2013

My Brother's Book: Maurice Sendak's Posthumous Love Letter to the World

"Because love is so enormous, the only thing you can think of doing is swallowing the person that you love entirely."

For those of us who loved legendary children's book author Maurice Sendak – famed creator of wild things, little-known illustrator of velveteen rabbits, infinitely warm heart, infinitely witty mind – his death in 2012 was one of the year's greatest heartaches. Now, half a century after his iconic Where The Wild Things Are comes My Brother's Book (public library; UK) – a bittersweet posthumous farewell to the world, illustrated in vibrant, dreamsome watercolors and written in verse inspired by some of Sendak's lifelong influences: Shakespeare, Blake, Keats, and the music of Mozart. In fact, a foreword by Shakespeare scholar Stephen Greenblatt reveals the book is based on the Bard's "A Winter's Tale."

It tells the story of two brothers, Jack and Guy, torn asunder when a falling star crashes onto Earth. Though on the surface about the beloved author's own brother Jack, who died 18 years ago, the story is also about the love of Sendak's life and his partner of fifty years, psychoanalyst Eugene Glynn, whose prolonged illness and eventual loss in 2007 devastated Sendak – the character of Guy reads like a poetic fusion of Sendak and Glynn. And while the story might be a universal "love letter to those who have gone before," as NPR's Renee Montagne suggests in Morning Edition, it is in equal measure a private love letter to Glynn. (Sendak passed away the day before President Obama announced his support for same-sex marriage, but Sendak fans were quick to honor both historic moments with a bittersweet homage.)
Indeed, the theme of all-consuming love manifests viscerally in Sendak's books. Playwright Tony Kushner, a longtime close friend of Sendak's and one of his most heartfelt mourners, tells NPR:
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