Dallas 1963, New York 1980, Washington 1981

On the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President Kennedy, I happen to be staying at the Washington Hilton — the hotel in front of which President Reagan was not assassinated 32 and a half years ago. Don DeLillo called the Kennedy assassination, “The seven seconds that broke the back of the American century.” But…

This Job Can Kill You. Literally.

As you likely already know, Margaret Mary Vojtko — an adjunct professor of French for 25 years — was found dead on her front lawn on September 1st. Facing mounting medical bills and lacking money to maintain or even heat her house, she died of a heart attack earlier that day.  As Daniel Kovalik writes, “Even…

Jose Aruego (1932-2012)

Maurice Sendak, Ellen Levine, Jean Craighead George, Leo Dillon, and now Jose Aruego.  It’s been an all-too-mortal year for children’s books.  Mr. Aruego died on August 9, his 80th birthday. I never met Mr. Aruego, but he did kindly grant Julia Mickenberg and me permission to use his illustrations for Charlotte Pomerantz’s The Day They…

Stayin’ Alive

While riding my bike last Tuesday morning, a car hit me.  It was 7:45 am, I was cycling uphill and due west.  A car coming due east — blinded by the sun, the driver later told me — took a left turn and hit my bicycle on its (and my) left side.  Fortunately, neither of us were…

That’s Life

Maurice Sendak, Leo Dillon, Ellen Levine, Jean Craighead George, Peter D. Sieruta.  During this past month, children’s literature has become a relentless parade of death.  Or so it seems. This feeling could just be a function of age. The older we get, the more deaths we witness. The older we get, the more these deaths…

The Most Wild Thing of All: Maurice Sendak, 1928-2012

But the wild things cried, “Oh, please don’t go— We’ll eat you up—we love you so!” And Max said, “No!” —Maurice Sendak, Where the Wild Things Are (1963) In June 2001, I went to hear Maurice Sendak speak at Yale University. A couple of years earlier, I’d started working on a biography of Crockett Johnson,…

David Bowman, Surrealist & Satirist

David Bowman — the writer, not the character in 2001: A Space Odyssey — died on February 27.  He was 54.  His obituary ran in this past Sunday’s Times.  He and I have had an on-and-off correspondence since the fall of 2000.  Upon reading his obituary, I realized (guiltily) that I’d failed to answer his…