It was such a shock to hear that Maxine Clarke was suddenly gone. I’m sure it was not sudden to those who really knew her, as I understand she had been unwell for some time, but it just seemed impossible. I actually hoped for a minute it was some kind of prank, some internet meme I didn’t know about, since it seemed so totally unreal. Maxine was a part of my daily life. How could she not be there tomorrow, and the next day?
Maxine was one of the great scholars of the genre, of the completely unassuming sort. She was a terrific book reviewer. She had a knack for describing a book with great detail and accuracy, yet somehow managing to avoid giving anything away. She reviewed voluminously, yet none of her reviews seemed hasty or superficial. Her tastes and mine were not identical – she often enjoyed books that were not my cup of tea, and didn’t care for writers whose work I enjoy – but she never misled me about a book. I knew exactly what to expect.
Apart from writing an impressive number of reviews that were informed by a deep knowledge of the genre, she was a great community builder. Whenever I wrote a blog post, she always seemed to make a comment before it was a few hours old. Quite often, she would toss out an idea that totally illuminated the book I thought I’d read. She was perhaps the best practitioner of social media in my experience: technically adept, generous with her time, able to create a bond among people that was never intrusive, strongly ethical, and a great deal of fun. As this news has sunk in, that’s something I will miss terribly: the way she seemed to so effortlessly weave us together into a close community.
I know I’ll keep those friends she introduced me to, and the FriendFeed room she started will go on. But it feels as if the world is a little smaller now, and a little sadder. My thoughts are with her family. Such a loss.
photo courtesy of rogerglenn