Final Sendak book a tribute to his brother

The late writer had managed to finish "My Brother's Book" before his death last year VIDEO

Topics: Video, aol_on, From the Wires, maurice sendak, Books, Writing, Where the Wild Things Are,

Final Sendak book a tribute to his brother (Credit: AP/Mary Altaffer)

NEW YORK (AP) — The last completed book we are likely to get from Maurice Sendak remembers a man he often insisted was the real genius of the family, his brother Jack.

Sendak died last May at age 83 after years of health problems, but had managed to finish “My Brother’s Book,” published this week. Admirers of “Where the Wild Things Are” and other Sendak stories will recognize its themes of danger, flight and fantasy, captured in a dreamy-scary swirl that demonstrates Sendak’s debt to William Blake.

Brothers Guy and Jack are blasted apart by a fiery star, Jack to “continents of ice” and Guy into the “lair of a bear” who attempts to choke Guy and devour him. Guy enrages the bear by asking him a riddle and is flung upon a “couch of flowers/in an ice-ribbed underworld.” Inside a greenish curtain of blossoms, he spies the nose of Jack and bites it to make sure he has found him. “And Jack slept safe/Enfolded in his brother’s arms/And Guy whispered `Good night/And you will dream of me.’”

Tony Kushner, a close friend, says that Sendak spoke often of his brother, who died in 1995, and longed to see him again – in whatever picture of the afterlife the skeptical author might have drawn in his mind. The brothers had worked on art projects since they were kids and Maurice illustrated two children’s books by Jack, whom Maurice described as “much more talented” during a 2011 interview with The Associated Press.

You Might Also Like

“I don’t think Maurice really believed that,” Kushner, the award-winning playwright and Oscar-nominated screenplay writer for “Lincoln,” said during a recent telephone interview. “Mastery is not just native talent. Mastery is also discipline and hard work and mastery of an art form. Maurice believed that to become a great artist you have to work very, very hard. Jack, for whatever reason, couldn’t quite pull himself together to do that.”

“My Brother’s Book” is based on Shakespeare’s “A Winter’s Tale,” a bittersweet story of loss and reunion so personal to Sendak that the author sobbed throughout a production Kushner took him to years ago, the playwright says. The book includes a foreword by Shakespeare scholar Stephen Greenblatt, who likens Sendak’s work to Shakespeare’s vision of “unpathed waters, undreamed shores.”

According to Kushner, Sendak wrote the text in the late 1990s and kept it in a drawer along with other possible projects. As his health declined, Sendak began thinking more about his legacy. He was well aware of the story of Verdi, whose masterpiece “Falstaff” premiered when the composer was 80.

“And that became an intimidating factor for him (Sendak). He was putting a lot of pressure on himself to make a masterpiece at the end,” Kushner says. “I’d say, `Maurice, you’re making it too hard on yourself. If you keep telling yourself it has to be the greatest thing you’ve ever done you’ll never do it.’”

Kushner says the book also is a memorial for Sendak’s longtime partner, Eugene Glynn, who died in 2007, and a conscious farewell from the author himself. The playwright notes that the illustrations for “My Brother’s Book” were a window into Sendak’s health and frame of mind. He had developed cataracts and the work seemed to reflect, almost literally, the world as Sendak saw it.

“You see his vision worsening, the hand getting shakier,” Kushner says of the illustrations in Sendak’s book. “There were days he was really working; the bear drawings are exquisitely detailed. And other pictures are more impressionistic, water-colory.

“On days he felt too bad to work, he was absolutely miserable. Right after he had cataract surgery, he was lamenting he couldn’t draw and he was getting depressed and angry about it. I remember one day I came into the house (in Ridgefield, Conn.) and he didn’t hear me. I went into his work room and there he was at the drawing table, his nose up to the paper, hand over one eye. And he was drawing.”

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 11
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails
    Martyna Blaszczyk/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 1

    Pond de l'Archeveche - hundreds thousands of padlocks locked to a bridge by random couples, as a symbol of their eternal love. After another iconic Pont des Arts bridge was cleared of the padlocks in 2010 (as a safety measure), people started to place their love symbols on this one. Today both of the bridges are full of love locks again.

    Anders Andersson/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 2

    A bird's view of tulip fields near Voorhout in the Netherlands, photographed with a drone in April 2015.

    Aashit Desai/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 3

    Angalamman Festival is celebrated every year in a small town called Kaveripattinam in Tamil Nadu. Devotees, numbering in tens of thousands, converge in this town the day after Maha Shivratri to worship the deity Angalamman, meaning 'The Guardian God'. During the festival some of the worshippers paint their faces that personifies Goddess Kali. Other indulge in the ritual of piercing iron rods throughout their cheeks.

    Allan Gichigi/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 4

    Kit Mikai is a natural rock formation about 40m high found in Western Kenya. She goes up the rocks regularly to meditate. Kit Mikai, Kenya

    Chris Ludlow/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 5

    On a weekend trip to buffalo from Toronto we made a pit stop at Niagara Falls on the Canadian side. I took this shot with my nexus 5 smartphone. I was randomly shooting the falls themselves from different viewpoints when I happened to get a pretty lucky and interesting shot of this lone seagull on patrol over the falls. I didn't even realize I had captured it in the shot until I went back through the photos a few days later

    Jassen T./National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 6

    Incredibly beautiful and extremely remote. Koehn Lake, Mojave Desert, California. Aerial Image.

    Howard Singleton/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 7

    Lucky timing! The oxpecker was originally sitting on hippo's head. I could see the hippo was going into a huge yawn (threat display?) and the oxpecker had to vacate it's perch. When I snapped the pic, the oxpecker appeared on the verge of being inhaled and was perfectly positioned between the massive gaping jaws of the hippo. The oxpecker also appears to be screeching in terror and back-pedaling to avoid being a snack!

    Abrar Mohsin/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 8

    The Yetis of Nepal - The Aghoris as they are called are marked by colorful body paint and clothes

    Madeline Crowley/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 9

    Taken from a zodiac raft on a painfully cold, rainy day

    Ian Bird/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 10

    This wave is situated right near the CBD of Sydney. Some describe it as the most dangerous wave in Australia, due to it breaking on barnacle covered rocks only a few feet deep and only ten metres from the cliff face. If you fall off you could find yourself in a life and death situation. This photo was taken 300 feet directly above the wave from a helicopter, just as the surfer is pulling into the lip of the barrel.

  • Recent Slide Shows

Comments

0 Comments

Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>