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Author Maurice Sendak (Where the Wild Things Are) dies at age 83

10:04 pm - 05/08/2012
Maurice Sendak, the author and illustrator of children's literature who was best known for his book, "Where the Wild Things Are," died early Tuesday in Danbury, Conn., at age 83. He had suffered a stroke on Friday.

Sendak came to fame in 1963 after the publication of "Where the Wild Things Are," for which he won the Caldecott Medal. He authored dozens of children's books over the following years, including another big hit in 1970, "In the Night Kitchen."

In 2002, for a segment about an exhibition on children's illustrations, Jeffrey Brown sat down with Sendak to talk about his roots as an artist and his interest in exploring children's perceptions of everyday life.

(You can watch the full segment here.)

Here's a transcript of Jeff's conversation with Sendak:

JEFFREY BROWN: For you personally, no question, you are an artist and always have been.

MAURICE SENDAK: Yeah. From the word go, I fell into a family of artists. I am a professional rude, crude artist. I'm very lucky because there was no, 'What are you going to do when you grow up?' There's only one thing I could do, or as my father said, 'Boy, you're going to be a bum, because you only have one thing going for you,' and that was true. By the way, he was not happy about that.

JEFFREY BROWN: In a number of the books, and I think you've talked about this, the action centers on a moment of distraction, or a moment of chaos, when something changes.

MAURICE SENDAK: I'm fascinated in my own life every day, but what is the little thing that happens, the little slide, that little turn you take, sort of like Alice falling down the rabbit hole. Why? It is arbitrary. Why? It is what you make of the little slip in time or strange moment in time...

In "Where the Wild Things Are," Max has this scene all the time, and his mother usually laughs, and she enjoys it. This is a bad day for her... We don't know why. We don't have to know why.

And he does the same thing he's been doing all the time, but she doesn't like it this day. And he is not prepared for her not liking it. Why has it changed? Why is she angry? Why is she upset? Why does she drive him to frantic distraction that he has to yell at her? He's frightened. This is a change of enormous proportion.

Somebody calls him some wild thing, and then he blurts, 'I'll eat you up.' Wow. That's hot stuff, and she does what she has to do, which is what they call "time out" now, that ludicrous phrase. But that's all it is, get outside of the item, just turn her head for a minute, intentionally, but she didn't know it was intentional and the baby is taken away.

It's those freak moments that really excite me, and how does the kid, the person, the animal, whatever get through that, survive. I'm not going to go on to say, as I almost did, God help me, and learn from it. No. I don't believe we can learn anything.

I'm 74 years old. I'd like to believe an accumulation of experience has made me a sort of a grown-up person, so I can have judgment and taste and whatever. But those moments are in all our lives, aren't they, those little split seconds where everything goes awry. It's so much more interesting to invest in how the child reacts to all of this, because we cover our tracks.

We will hide our immediate reaction to something strange and unnatural, or whatever. A child glares at it, and that's what makes it more interesting to work with children. That's the answer to the whole question. It's the freshness and the precision of how they deal with these things, so they can look at it, and don't avoid it the way we do. I speak generally.

JEFFREY BROWN: What makes a book like "Where the Wild Things Are," what makes that one last?

MAURICE SENDAK: I haven't got a clue. Truly, I don't know why. That it has that quality, yes, no question. How many people have a five-year-old child care for their fathers all through his life? That manic kid in that silly wolf suit has made my life pleasurable. Not many people have children who are so financially dependable, which also has allowed me to invest in all kinds of experimental work. One should be happy to have one book like that.


We'll have more about Sendak on Tuesday's NewsHour. Below, you can watch President Obama read "Where the Wild Things Are" at the annual White House Easter Egg Roll, something the president has made something of a tradition at the event.

source: PBS Newshour
In the Night Kitchen" was #24 on the American library Association's list of most frequently banned books
mandrill 9th-May-2012 03:18 am (UTC)
Longer, more detailed, article here: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/09/books/maurice-sendak-childrens-author-dies-at-83.html?_r=1

Of note: "Was there anything he [Sendak] had never been asked? He paused for a few moments and answered, 'Well, that I’m gay...I just didn’t think it was anybody’s business,' Mr. Sendak added. He lived with Eugene Glynn, a psychoanalyst, for 50 years before Dr. Glynn’s death in May 2007. He never told his parents: 'All I wanted was to be straight so my parents could be happy. They never, never, never knew.' Children protect their parents, Mr. Sendak said. It was like the time he had a heart attack at 39. His mother was dying from cancer in the hospital, and he decided to keep the news to himself, something he now regrets. A gay artist in New York is not exactly uncommon, but Mr. Sendak said that the idea of a gay man writing children books would have hurt his career when he was in his 20s and 30s."

I had no idea that Sendak was gay. R.I.P. Mr. Sendak.
moonshaz 9th-May-2012 06:23 am (UTC)
He lived with Eugene Glynn, a psychoanalyst, for 50 years before Dr. Glynn’s death in May 2007. He never told his parents: 'All I wanted was to be straight so my parents could be happy. They never, never, never knew.'

That is so touching, and incredibly sad.
romp 9th-May-2012 06:26 am (UTC)
I only found out in 2006 in an interview in The New Yorker. I bet most people didn't know.
rjdaae 9th-May-2012 03:57 am (UTC)
Aww... :(
windy_lea 9th-May-2012 04:18 am (UTC)
Aw, it feels like he was on Colbert just yesterday. T_T
fenris_lorsrai 9th-May-2012 05:14 am (UTC)
Colbert ran some extra from the interview tonight. even more hilarity!
alryssa 9th-May-2012 05:22 am (UTC)
That whole thing was GOLD.
wrestlingdog 9th-May-2012 03:50 pm (UTC)
That was so lovely!
windy_lea 9th-May-2012 05:21 am (UTC)
I know! I really want to get around to reading some of his other books, because I think only read the one, and I'm confident that doesn't do the man justice.
youkiddinright 9th-May-2012 10:04 pm (UTC)
T_T He was so awesome in that interview.
13chapters 9th-May-2012 04:51 am (UTC)
Feeling so sad about this. In the Night Kitchen freaked me the fuck out when I was little. Maurice Sendak was so amazing, and his interview with Colbert was stupendous.

In related news, my kitty Max (who is named after the boy in Where the Wild Things Are because he enjoys the wild rumpus a little too much) just returned this morning after being lost for three days. I am so so happy.
rjdaae 9th-May-2012 04:55 am (UTC)
I'm glad your cat came home! :) Mine did that once, and it was awful until he came back.
linda_lupos 9th-May-2012 12:34 pm (UTC)
The freakiest thing to me is that In The Night Kitchen freaked me the hell out as a kid, but then I forgot about it and only remembered it yesterday when I was reading about Maurice Sendak. Few things freakier than seeing a picture and going "... OH MY GOD I REMEMBER THAT, NIGHTMARES". That book was SO weird.

I need to find it and read it again.
alryssa The Highest Compliment9th-May-2012 05:28 am (UTC)
romp Re: The Highest Compliment9th-May-2012 06:27 am (UTC)
I love that this was FB's way of celebrating Sendak's life!
chaya Re: The Highest Compliment9th-May-2012 02:49 pm (UTC)
;; <3
romp 9th-May-2012 06:32 am (UTC)
The little I know of Sendak was from an article in The New Yorker from 2006. It seems to have captured a lot of him. Not Nice

I love In the Night Kitchen. He seems to have never forgotten how weird and serious the world is to children as they try to make sense of it.

kira_snugz 9th-May-2012 07:42 am (UTC)
my daughter loves where the wild things are. i love it too. she pretends to be max, and then i get to be the monsters and we act the story out when we read it. i am petrified that someday soon, she'll tell me she too old to read it anymore.

may he rest in peace.
kitchen_poet 9th-May-2012 08:51 am (UTC)
RIP Sendak. May you roar your terrible roar in the world to come. :)
abee 9th-May-2012 09:28 am (UTC)
Bless you, Maurice Sendak, for giving me my most favorite book in my life. Rest in peace knowing you've encouraged kids to use their imagination to find their adventures.
oceandezignz 9th-May-2012 11:35 am (UTC)
I was not much of a fan for Wild Things, I liked Little Bear as I was growing up, although he only provided the artwork (and got the title billing on the TV show).\

Either way, he will be missed.
tabaqui 9th-May-2012 12:57 pm (UTC)
Oh, Mr. Sendak. May you rest in peace.
anamatics 9th-May-2012 02:52 pm (UTC)
This is such a tragedy. No one remembers In the Night Kitchen anymore, but it was one of my favorite books as a child. I'm so glad that this article at least mentioned it. It is such a tragedy when great writers that I associate with my childhood pass away. :(
wrestlingdog 9th-May-2012 03:49 pm (UTC)
In the Night Kitchen, Where the Wild Things Are, Really Rosie- so many of his books completely shaped my childhood. I'm really sad to see him go (especially because he died on my birthday).

4eyedblonde 9th-May-2012 07:07 pm (UTC)
Maurice Sendak was my hero. Amazing author, artist, and all-around awesome dude.
just_say_narf 10th-May-2012 04:14 am (UTC)
RIP. Thank you for writing so many books I loved and for just being an amazing person.
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