Sendak, Bradbury & Unsworth – The Rule of Three

In the previous couple of weeks there have been three deaths in the ranks of renowned authors: Maurice Sendak, Barry Unsworth and Ray Bradbury. All will be missed for quite different reasons; interestingly different reasons. Here is our little tribute to them, with some selected quotes from each author.

Maurice Sendak 1928 – 2012

In some ways Sendak appeared a curmudgeonly child, ill-tempered, fiercely honest and obsessively devoted to his love. Yet he was, self-professedly so, an unhappy man – ironic considering the joy he brought to so many with his books. Where The Wild Things Are stands as one of the best-loved children’s books of all time, and, much like the film that came of it, the book can be read as a book about childhood for adults. A small part of my childhood died with him, I think.

“Please don’t go. We’ll eat you up we love you so.” – Where the Wild Things Are

“And now,” cried Max, “let the wild rumpus start!” – Where the Wild Things Are

“I said anything I wanted because I don’t believe in children I don’t believe in childhood. I don’t believe that there’s a demarcation. ‘Oh you mustn’t tell them that. You mustn’t tell them that.’ You tell them anything you want. Just tell them if it’s true. If it’s true you tell them.”

“Once a little boy sent me a charming card with a little drawing on it. I loved it. I answer all my children’s letters — sometimes very hastily — but this one I lingered over. I sent him a card and I drew a picture of a Wild Thing on it. I wrote, “Dear Jim: I loved your card.” Then I got a letter back from his mother and she said, “Jim loved your card so much he ate it.” That to me was one of the highest compliments I’ve ever received. He didn’t care that it was an original Maurice Sendak drawing or anything. He saw it, he loved it, he ate it.”

Barry Unsworth 1930 – 2012

A true artisan, Unsworth’s historical novels captured modern moral complexity through brilliant portrayal of the past. His rich, effortless prose rebuilt the past with depth and excitement, winning him the admiration of authors and readers alike. He won the Booker Prize in 1992 with Sacred Hunger, sharing it with Michael Ondaatje’s The English Patient.

On writing historical fiction: “We are quite at ease in this no man’s land of ignorance and doubt and dispute, absorbed in the ambiguities of trying to reach truth by mixing fact with invention. The search for truth in historical fiction – in fiction of any kind – is really a search for intensity of illusion.”

“There are no stronger fetters than those we forge for ourselves.” – Sacred Hunger

“Numbers of men are getting richer and greater numbers are getting poorer. Alas, both classes have higher expectations these days. In Short, sir, there has been a leap in bribes.”- Sacred Hunger

Ray Bradbury 1920 – 2012

Bradbury was one of those writers that inspired a generation of aspiring authors as well as many creative, rebellious readers. Margaret Atwood said he ‘sinks a tap root right down into the deep, dark, Gothic core of America.’ and Barack Obama called his influence on American culture transformative. Neil Gaiman pretty much considered him a god. His legacy is profound, and it would be impossible to disentangle his work from the evolution of modern fiction and film. Shadow Show: All New Stories in Celebration of Ray Bradbury, will be released in August this year.

“You don’t have to burn books to destroy a culture. Just get people to stop reading them.”

“You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you.”

“I have never listened to anyone who criticized my taste in space travel, sideshows or gorillas. When this occurs, I pack up my dinosaurs and leave the room.”

“Science fiction is the most important literature in the history of the world, because it’s the history of ideas, the history of our civilization birthing itself. …Science fiction is central to everything we’ve ever done, and people who make fun of science fiction writers don’t know what they’re talking about.”

“I have three rules to live by: Get your work done. If that doesn’t work, shut up and drink your gin, and when all else fails, run like hell.”


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