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"Okay smarty, you've had your party but never again.""
September 20, 2011 2:47 PM   Subscribe

This interview with Maurice Sendak on NPR is worth a listen. Sendak has just published his first book in 30 years. Bumble-ardy was written while his partner was dying in order, he says, "to save myself". be sure to hang in until the end of the interview, have some tissue handy.
posted by tomswift (30 comments total) 36 users marked this as a favorite

 
Not 30 years...He published We Are All in the Dumps with Jack and Guy in 1993.

But, an awesome link and exciting news, thanks tomswift.
posted by emjaybee at 2:56 PM on September 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


I heard that in the car this afternoon and had to pull over to cry for a couple of minutes—interesting and very moving.
posted by theredpen at 2:59 PM on September 20, 2011


My apologies, it's the first written and illustrated by Sendak in 30 years...

It appears that this book may have evolved from an animated Sesame Street piece.
posted by tomswift at 3:08 PM on September 20, 2011


Not 30 years...He published We Are All in the Dumps with Jack and Guy in 1993.

I think the logic was that Jack and Guy is a reworking of previously-existing rhymes, not an original text - although it's so strange and such a complete narrative that I think it's a silly distinction.

I love We Are All In The Dumps With Jack and Guy. It's easily my favorite of his books and in a weird way one of my favorite books all told - maybe if I were to sum up my philosophy and its sentimentalities and flaws and weaknesses, I'd just point to that book. It pulls together so many themes about morality, nature, the animal world, greed and politics, violence, fear, abandonment, chosen families....I've never seen anyone mention this, but I'd always read Jack and Guy as symbolic of a queer couple - it was certainly when I read Jack and Guy that it occurred to me that Sendak was gay. (My mother is a kids' librarian, so I read it as an adult when it came out because she was reviewing it.)

Sendak is a good man, I think. He's not someone who sadness has made bitter or xenophobic.
posted by Frowner at 3:11 PM on September 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


I was at a bookstore this weekend and read Bumble-ardy to my daughters there. It's a lovely little story and has something of a wild rumpus reminiscent interlude in the middle. It's a delightful book, but the illustrations, especially of the costumed pigs at the party, are really odd. Almost unsettling. The story isn't really sad, except almost at the beginning when his family gets sent to the butcher, and then he gets sent to his aunt, but the art near the end, during the party, it seems terribly sad, specifically when the story wasn't. It was a very moving and beautiful children's book.

The Times has a great interview as well.
posted by Toekneesan at 3:11 PM on September 20, 2011


Holy shit, his grief, and the words he uses to express it, are almost unbearable.

I fear I've long since turned 10. But I am not too old to connect wit this author, who taught me as a child.
posted by fake at 3:14 PM on September 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm not an emotional person, but I caught the last few minutes of this while driving through a parking lot and had to stop and...I don't know, compose myself and just absorb it. Displays of naked emotion are so rare that they are often startling.
posted by Roman Graves at 3:14 PM on September 20, 2011


Aside from Maurice's wonderful work (In The Night Kitchen is my favorite), I'm glad he and his partner, a doctor, lived long enough so they could come out, and come out as a couple, and *not* have their queerness impact their work. I've never heard anyone alarmed their child would be harmed by his gayness via his books, films, or theater/ballet (he designed Seattle's Nutcracker Suite sets). There is criticism of his work and his content, but the time has apparently passed for ad hominem viciousness.
posted by Dreidl at 3:28 PM on September 20, 2011


There is an angel in that man.
posted by oneironaut at 3:32 PM on September 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Maurice Sendak is everything I want to be when I'm older. He's brave and feisty and not afraid to voice his fears and frustrations. He's not sugarcoating anything, but he's somehow all the more inspiring because of it.

If you are ever in Philadelphia and want to see more from him, please visit the Rosenbach Museum and Library. He is their Honorary President, and sadly, will probably never visit the building again.
posted by piratebowling at 3:43 PM on September 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


Wouldn't you know that as soon as I listen to this, someone in my office decides to start chopping an onion.

Joking aside, that was an absolute gift, thanks.
posted by BigHeartedGuy at 3:45 PM on September 20, 2011


Terry Gross is such a great and empathetic interviewer. She almost always gets the best out of her subjects. And this was a great subject. Thanks.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 3:57 PM on September 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Sendak's work has always struck me as profundly queer, and the isolation that is so often part of queer voices. I always knew that his voice was one of my tradition--he is one of my pantheons of queer saints.

that said, fuck, i was crying at the end of this.
posted by PinkMoose at 3:59 PM on September 20, 2011


Standing here making dinner in tears. Thank you, Maurice Sendak. Thank you, Terry Gross. Thank you, tomswift.
posted by MonkeyToes at 4:12 PM on September 20, 2011


This was one of the most compelling things I've heard in some time. The part where they touch on his realization that this is the end of his life and being an atheist, he firmly believes that there isn't anything beyond his time here. The part where he wants to see his brother again after death, but knows it isn't going to happen killed me. There's a longing in his voice, almost a struggle to adhere to his beliefs; death would be easier even if you only half-believe that there is an afterlife. It would be almost overwhelming to be at that stage of life and have to be facing that reality.
posted by bionic.junkie at 4:16 PM on September 20, 2011


From that interview I linked to above:
"You mustn’t scare parents. And I think with my books, I managed to scare parents.

Randolph Caldecott was a sneaky guy. Because under the guise of stories about little animals, he had the same passion for childhood. If you just look at the surface of them, they look like nice English books for kiddies. But his books are troubling if you spend time with them. He inspired me. I adored Caldecott. Probably his idea, or my interpretation of him, was that children’s books should be fair to children. Not to soften or to weaken.

Before that, the attitude towards children was: Keep them calm, keep them happy, keep them snug and safe. It’s not a putdown of those earlier books. But basically, they went by the rules that children should be safe and that we adults should be their guardians. I got out of that, and I was considered outlandish. So be it."
Sendak has received 7 Caldecott honors and won the medal for Where the Wild Things Are.
posted by Toekneesan at 4:19 PM on September 20, 2011


Wow. That interview is extraordinary. I had to stop and pause it for a few seconds so I could get a full breath. Is it because his voice was woven so intimately into my childhood memories that it's particularly affecting to hear him speak of death so bravely and painfully and frankly? I can't say. But thanks so much for this post. I'll be thinking of it for a while.
posted by artemisia at 4:22 PM on September 20, 2011


I came home intending to make a post about exactly this.

Amazing interview. He's such a curmudgeon in a lot of ways, but it seems he mellows and softens with every trip around Sol.

If you haven't seen Spike Jonze's documentary "Tell Them Anything You Want", filmed in conjunction with the creation of the Wild Things movie, you should definitely seek it out. It'll give you insight into Sendak that you've never had before.

Just like this interview. Amazing. His building grief, especially with the rawness of the recent loss of his friends, his projection forward into losing yet more people in his life, and yet his deliberate choice of joy at existing and getting experience life...

I can only hope that I manage to be so complex and full of life when I'm 83.
posted by hippybear at 4:24 PM on September 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Before that, the attitude towards children was: Keep them calm, keep them happy, keep them snug and safe. It’s not a putdown of those earlier books. But basically, they went by the rules that children should be safe and that we adults should be their guardians. I got out of that, and I was considered outlandish. So be it."

I really enjoy Sendak's work, but I have to say that Outside Over There still scares the bejesus out of me. If you haven't read that one, I'd say you really don't know how completely terrifying he can be.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 4:48 PM on September 20, 2011


The end of this interview had me in tears at my desk today. When he tells Terry he's glad he'll be gone before her so he doesn't have to miss her, it made me remember saying goodbye to my grandfather.
posted by msbutah at 5:03 PM on September 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


msbutah, that was the moment that made me sob out loud.
posted by ottereroticist at 5:19 PM on September 20, 2011


oh, jesus, that man broke my heart just now.
posted by palomar at 5:36 PM on September 20, 2011


So you see yourself as a monster?

Mr. SENDAK: Of course, I am. I see it in their eyes. When I'm autographing books, which I don't like to do much anymore and children are shoved at me.

GROSS: Yeah.

Mr. SENDAK: They have no idea why they're on the line. They'd much rather be in the bathroom.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. SENDAK: And they're standing on line and they're being told something which is so frightening and confusing, which is being told by mom or dad. This is a man you'd like so much, honey. This is a man who did your favorite book. And they clutch their book even closer, that really means he's going to take it away. Because if this is the man's favorite book then he's going to take your book…

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. SENDAK: And a look of alarm and the tears and they stare at me -like pure hatred. Who is this elderly, short man sitting behind the desk who's going to take their book away? Then on top of that the parents are like, give them your book, honey. He wants to write something in it. Although they've been told don't write in a book. Okay. Why then is it all right for a perfect stranger to write in their book. It's horrible for them. And I become horrible unwittingly. I make children cry.

GROSS: They cry when…

Mr. SENDAK: They cry when they meet me because they don't know what I'm doing. And only when their - it's quicker with girls because girls are smarter than boys. We all know that. They grow up faster. And girls, by the time they're seven or eight, already know the business of autographing and what it means. Boys don't till they're about 40 I think. And so, they'll pull it away. There's only one child who ever had the courage and his father was urging him forward, urging him forward. I can see the hesitation. I just felt so bad for the kid and I put my hand on the book to help draw it away from him. And he literally screamed and said - don't crap up my book.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. SENDAK: It was the bravest, the bravest cry I have ever heard. I nearly wept.

***
How well he understands. Again: Thank you, Terry Gross and Maurice Sendak.
posted by MonkeyToes at 5:48 PM on September 20, 2011 [9 favorites]


I got a broken link.

Here's where I found the page.

Here's the link to download the mp3.
posted by CarlRossi at 8:50 PM on September 20, 2011


I'm at work, I don't dare to listen to the interview. What a pity that he's virtually unknown in Poland. I ordered Where The Wild Thing Are the book and the movie for my son, I will translate it to him on the fly, this story is about him.
Thank you Mr Sendak, thank you tomswift.
posted by hat_eater at 3:26 AM on September 21, 2011


I ordered Where The Wild Thing Are the book and the movie for my son, I will translate it to him on the fly, this story is about him.

I'd say, depending on how old your son is, you may want to watch the movie yourself first. It's only just barely a children's film, deals with a lot of pretty adult emotional themes, and left me in a very strange mental space for about 3 days after I watched it. I loved it, but it's a very very odd movie.
posted by hippybear at 4:30 AM on September 21, 2011


Oh, and the transcript of the interview is now available. (The interview loses much of its power in transcript form, so it's definitely the least best route to digesting this interview.)
posted by hippybear at 4:34 AM on September 21, 2011


Thanks, I figured as much, I plan to show and read him the book first, the movie will have to wait - my son isn't 4 years old yet.
posted by hat_eater at 6:34 AM on September 21, 2011


I work for Fresh Air. We sent Maurice 35 pages of letters today (because he's not online much) so he could see the outpouring of love from the audience.
posted by melodykramer at 1:30 PM on September 21, 2011 [6 favorites]


After listening to this, I couldn't help but go re-read an old familiar poem. Appropriate for Mr. Sendak, as I suspect he's in some ways a father-figure to many of us. I'm glad to know he isn't going gently.

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

- Dylan Thomas
posted by jph at 5:35 PM on September 21, 2011


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