Tuesday, May 8, 2012

AND IT WAS STILL HOT: Maurice Sendak has passed away at the age of 83; his books will live on forever.  In an October 2011 interview with The Guardian, fascinating for many reasons, he described himself as follows:
I'm totally crazy, I know that. I don't say that to be a smartass, but I know that that's the very essence of what makes my work good. And I know my work is good. Not everybody likes it, that's fine. I don't do it for everybody. Or anybody. I do it because I can't not do it.
And from a 2006 NPR interview:
INSKEEP: ... Is it emotionally hard for you to place children in jeopardy in your drawing? When it gets time to do that page, does it take something out of you?

Mr. SENDAK: No. Because really I think all children are in jeopardy. I think it is unnatural to think that there is such a thing as a blue-sky, white-clouded happy childhood for anybody. Childhood is a very, very tricky business of surviving it. Because if one thing goes wrong or anything goes wrong, and usually something goes wrong, then you are compromised as a human being. You're going to trip over that for a good part of your life.

18 comments:

  1. <span>Sendak continued to provide joy and comfort to many of us well into our adult years (despite the thoughtless appropriation of his artwork for a thousand-thousand utterly regrettable spring break t-shirts).  
     
    One instance of comfort, the one that sticks with me, occurs during a radio interview with Terri Gross in 2003.  The project Sendak is promoting is dark and challenging.  His reflections on what drove it for him, personally, are darker still for being more personal.  Gross ends with a "trivial" observation about Sendak's preference for drab clothing.  Sendak admits that it leads kids to compare him to "The Wild Things", claims that it's tied to low self-esteem and a desire not to be noticed, and says (lightheartedly) "That's not trivial.  That's heartbreaking."  Gross responds that "It's funny too."  And Sendak utters four words that, in context of the topics he and Gross have ranged over in the preceeding twenty-nine and on-half minutes, still astound me utterly.  They might make a decent article of faith if I could just summon the strength to consistently believe them: "Everything is funny too."  
     
    RIP
    </span>

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  2. Adam C.12:57 PM

    Beautifully put - thanks for sharing that, Phil.

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  3. Aimee3:07 PM

    RIP, Mr. Sendak.  No matter how old I get, I will always be happy to put on my wolf suit and sail away for a year and a day....

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  4. That link to the interview is now going somewhere else.  Not sure why.  Here is another attempt.  If it goes elsewhere also I would nonetheless totally encourage you to search "2003, Gross, Sendak" at npr.org and/or click the link reading for the October 30, 2003 interview on the general rememberance page.

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  5. littleredyarn4:26 PM

    Aimee, if I could like your comment a thousand times, I would. 

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  6. Marsha4:45 PM

    From the same Terry Gross interview: "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.”

    To me, "Where the Wild Things Are" will always be the book that my kid sister loved so much that she sent it to my first born son as his very first gift from his aunt. That's the best compliment she could ever give to Maurice Sendak, and the best gift she could possibly give to my son.

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  7. Genevieve4:50 PM

    Phantom Scribbler's insightful and beautiful tribute to Sendak:
    http://phantomscribbler.blogspot.com/2012/05/maurice-sendak.html

    Betsy Bird's post when Where The Wild Things Are came in as #1 on the Top 100 Picture Books Poll:
    http://blog.schoollibraryjournal.com/afuse8production/2009/05/14/top-100-picture-books-poll-results-1/

    Terrible Yellow Eyes, a collection of works by invited contributing artists that were inspired by Where the Wild Things Are (the one called "Gone" is resonating with me today):
    http://www.terribleyelloweyes.com/

    Lovely Wild Things bento:
    http://www.annathered.com/2009/02/03/bento32-where-the-wild-things-are-left-side/

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  8. Maggie9:26 PM

    "Where the Wild Things Are" is great, but I have a big soft spot for "Really Rosie" and spent some time listening to the soundtrack this afternoon. The title track and "The Ballad of Chicken Soup" are sublime.

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  9. J.O'Connor11:06 PM

    I was just talking with my sister-in-law last week about Where the Wild Things Are.  Her youngest son, who's a little more than three, likes it, but it makes him nervous because he doesn't understand Max's journey to be imaginary.  I remember it confused and upset me too.  I was a very literal minded and trusting child, so when Sendak, through my mom, told me Max sailed away for "a year and in and out of weeks," I believed him.  I don't think I understood the significance of the last line until I was in high school. 

    Although I didn't really appreciate classic Sendak as a child, reading his obituary and looking up his work today, I realize that several unconnected things I loved as a child were all by him.  One of the first books I ever read by myself was an early reader book called Little Bear, with these beautiful pen and ink line drawings that I learned today were by Sendak.  There was also a Sesame Street animated short about a naughty boy named Bumble who, when his mother Sweet Adeline goes out to work at nine past nine, invites nine groovy swine to  dine on birthday cake and wine.   That too, I realized today was Sendak.  And so thanks to the internet, I've been having a nostalgic Proustian evening revisiting my childhood thanks to Mr. Sendak, which as Bumble's narrator tells us "isn't bad -- in fact, it's fine."

     
    http://www.youtube.com/v/E2TVYdQU3-I" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" width="170" height="140

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  10. Thanks, Marsha. :)  I have such happy memories of having that book read to me when we were little, and it meant more than I can say to read it to your son.   The loss of Sendak hit me harder than I would have expected.

    Let the wild rumpus start, Mr. Sendak.

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  11. "Where the Wild Things Are" is one of my favorite children's books - maybe one of my favorite books, period.  But as a child, I also treasured his "Nutshell Library" books - four tiny little books that include "Pierre" and "Chicken Soup with Rice." (We also had the album, which put the songs to music, which I listened to so much that I can still hear the tunes in my head now.)  I was happily surprised to see that it's still sold in the same design and format:
    http://www.amazon.com/Nutshell-Library-Caldecott-Collection-Maurice/dp/0060255005

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  12. Marnie11:20 AM

    I loved the Nutshell Library books and the songs (from Really Rosie).  I'm glad they are still sold in the same format. A number of years ago, I babysat for some children who had their father's version of the Nutshell Library books (and I was in shock that he let them put pin holes in the covers, etc.)--I think the books are absolutely timeless.

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  13. Genevieve3:16 PM

    I still give the Nutshell Library as a baby gift sometimes, or as a preschooler's birthday gift.  Sue, I hear the tunes too, and the tunes for the Really Rosie songs that aren't in the nutshells.

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  14. Genevieve3:18 PM

    I'd forgotten about that Sesame Street short!  I read about Bumble-Ardy when it came out this year (his final picture book, apparently based on this short) but it didn't stir the memory up. 

    I loved Little Bear too. 

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  15. Marsha3:51 PM

    I have both the Nutshell Library (Sue, I think our childhood copy is lost to the ages) and a Really Rosie CD. Love them both dearly.

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