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The Writing Life

Sarah Ruhl, Letters from Max: A Book of Friendship

Wednesday, January 23, 2019 - 6:30 PM | Members' Room | open to the public | $15 per person | registration required

In 2012, Sarah Ruhl was a distinguished author and playwright, twice a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. Max Ritvo, a student in her playwriting class at Yale University, was an exuberant, opinionated, and highly gifted poet. He was also in remission from pediatric cancer.

Over the next four years―in which Ritvo’s illness returned and his health declined, even as his productivity bloomed―the two exchanged letters that spark with urgency, humor, and the desire for connection. Reincarnation, books, the afterlife as an Amtrak quiet car, good soup: in Ruhl and Ritvo’s exchanges, all ideas are fair, nourishing game, shared and debated in a spirit of generosity and love. “We’ll always know one another forever, however long ever is,” Ritvo writes. “And that’s all I want―is to know you forever.”

Studded with poems and songs, Letters from Max is a deeply moving portrait of a friendship, and a shimmering exploration of love, art, mortality, and the afterlife.

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.

Letters from Max is co-authored by Max Ritvo.

Library members are also invited to join in an informal, book club-style discussion of Letters from Max on February 12.


The Writing Life events in 2019 are generously underwritten by Jenny Lawrence.


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