NEW YORK – 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. Maurice illustrated two children’s books by Jack, whom Maurice described as “much more talented” during a 2011 interview with The Associated Press.
“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 that Kushner took him to years ago, the playwright said. 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.
“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 said.
Stars line up to perform at Feb. 10 Grammy show
Sting, Rihanna and Bruno Mars will hit the stage for a special performance at next week’s Grammy Awards.
The Recording Academy announced Monday that they will perform together at the Feb. 10 awards show. Triple nominee Kelly Clarkson will also take the stage.
Beyonce, Prince, Jennifer Lopez and country singer Hunter Hayes will be presenters at the Grammys, which will be held at the Staples Center in Los Angeles.
Six acts tied for the most nominations with six each, including Ocean, The Black Keys’ Dan Auerbach, Kanye West, Jay-Z, fun. and Mumford & Sons.
Previously announced performers include Ocean, Alicia Keys, Maroon 5, Ed Sheeran, Elton John and fun. Taylor Swift will kick off the show, to be hosted by rapper-actor LL Cool J.
Unexpected adds interest to Super Bowl
NEW YORK – With a partial power outage, an overly excited quarterback and a game that suddenly turned from snoozer to sizzler, CBS had its hands full at the Super Bowl. The game fell short of setting a viewership record, but it stands as the third-most-watched program in U.S. television history.
The Nielsen Co. said an estimated 108.4 million people watched the Baltimore Ravens’ 34-31 victory over the San Francisco 49ers. The most-watched events in U.S. TV history were last year’s game, seen by 111.3 million, and the 2010 game, with 111 million viewers.
The power outage was an immediate hot topic for quips and questions online. There were an estimated 47.7 million social media posts during the game, according to the company Trendrr TV, which tracks activity on Twitter, Facebook and other social networks. That compares with 17 million during last year’s game and 3 million in 2010, Trendrr said.