Letters from Max: A Poet, a Teacher, a Friendship

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Product Details

$16.00  $14.88
Milkweed Editions
Publish Date
5.4 X 0.9 X 8.4 inches | 0.95 pounds
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About the Author

Sarah Ruhl is a playwright, two-time Pulitzer Prize finalist, Tony Award nominee, and author of the book 100 Essays I Don't Have Time to Write, which was a New York Times Notable Book of the Year. She has been the recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship, the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize, the Whiting Writers' Award, the PEN/Laura Pels International Foundation for Theater Award for a midcareer playwright, and the Steinberg Award. She is currently on the faculty of the Yale School of Drama and lives in Brooklyn with her family. Max Ritvo (1990-2016) was the author, with Sarah Ruhl, of Letters from Max. He was also the author of two collections of poems, Four Reincarnations and The Final Voicemails, which were published by Milkweed Editions in 2016 and 2018. His chapbook, Aeons, was chosen by Jean Valentine to receive the Poetry Society of America Chapbook Fellowship in 2014. Ritvo's poetry has also appeared in the New Yorker and Poetry, among many other publications.


Praise for Letters from Max

"Tender . . . A strange and beautiful volume made up of Ruhl's correspondence with Ritvo."--New Yorker

"A revelation, as honest and eloquent an expression of what it is like to be sick . . . a resonant and profound contribution from two fully formed artists to the literature of illness."--Slate

"Moving and erudite . . . devastating and lyrical . . . Ruhl draws a comparison between their correspondence and that between poets Robert Lowell and Elizabeth Bishop, and indeed, with the depth and intelligence displayed, one feels in the presence of literary titans."--Publishers Weekly

"Immediate comparisons will be made to Rainer Maria Rilke's Letters to a Young Artist . . . this book is a nuanced look at the evolution of an incredible talent facing mortality and the mentor, never condescending, who recognizes his gift. Their infectious letters shine with a love of words and beauty."--The Observer

"Letters from Max is a sublime journey shared by two brilliant minds. . . . it is stunning to see that these letters offer so much peace. They read like guided meditations, lived hymns, the good voices we seek within our own heads."--BOMB

"The agile, luminous minds and tender, perceptive hearts of these two writers . . . charts the rare and complex process of two artists coming to truly see and know one another. . . . Both Ritvo and Ruhl hoped their correspondence would bring solace to those facing death or losing loved ones; this intimate gift also rekindles hope in the bright possibility of profound human connections."--Booklist (starred review)

"The intention beneath every letter is love and these are just two dear friends and colleagues talking, but because of who they are every page is an original sound."--Washington Independent Review of Books

"It is at once painful and enlightening to eavesdrop on the correspondence between playwright Sarah Ruhl and the late poet Max Ritvo . . . What emerges from their brilliant, funny, heartbreaking conversations is a frank exploration of human connection, mortality, art and much more in precious real time. . . . Theirs is a life and death conversation, deftly seasoned with poetry."--Robert Gray, Shelf Awareness

"Deeply moving, often heartbreaking . . . a captivating celebration of life and love."--Kirkus (starred review)

"I will read more books in my life but I will not love another book more than this one. I suspect this book has the power to reassure the weary and to instill faith in anyone who needs it. If they let you bring books when you die, I will 100 percent put this one in the tiny stack that goes with me."--Mary-Louise Parker, author of Dear Mr. You

"Revelatory in every way, Letters from Max is an unusual, beautiful book about nothing less than the necessity of art in our lives. Two big-hearted, big-brained writers have allowed us to eavesdrop on their friendship: jokes and heartbreaks, admiration, hard work, tender work." --Elizabeth McCracken, author of Thunderstruck & Other Stories

"I expected the letters between these two artists to be profoundly brilliant and profoundly heartbreaking. And they are. But what I didn't expect, and what makes the experience of reading this conversation a sublime one, is the abiding and generous humor throughout, the element that, as Max Ritvo says, 'makes our sadness rhyme with joy.' Resisting any lesson to be found in Ritvo's impending death, the letters between these two friends instead enact a deep and instructive compassion and pay ardent attention to what it means to continue to live a life, even one that will end tragically and too soon. In giving the world these breathtaking letters, Sarah Ruhl, with humility and humanity, goes far in preserving the legacy of the poet Max Ritvo."--Carrie Fountain, author of I'm Not Missing

"Letters from Max is a story of two brilliant beings unfolding each other's hearts and minds until even death is a gift and listening never ends. I read it once without stopping and read it again and again. Every page is a revelation about the unflinching mysteries of life." --Beth Henley, winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Drama

Praise for Max Ritvo and Sarah Ruhl

"Electric . . . Although Ritvo is inimitable, his example is there for young poets wanting to forsake simple transcriptive dailiness for the wilder country of the afflicted but dancing body and the devastated but joking mind."--Helen Vendler, Poetry

"Almost every time I speak of Ritvo, I am compelled to use the word 'luminous.'"--Lucie Brock-Broido

"Ruhl writes in a poised, crystalline style about things that are irrational and invisible. . . . Full of astonishments, surprises, and mysteries."--John Lahr, New Yorker