Google the Wild Things
June 10, 2013 3:16 PM   Subscribe

My colleague and friend used to work for Mr. Sendak and wrote a wonderful remembrance after Sendak's death. I thought it would be appropriate to share here:

Goodnight, Moishe

I don’t often write about personal things, but today it seems appropriate.

I worked for Maurice Sendak from 1995 until 1998, out of an office in his darkly magical home in Connecticut, filled with Mickey Mouse memorabilia, Blake originals, frayed carpets and such obscure ephemera as the walking stick of Beatrix Potter. I lived in the nearby town of West Redding, where he visited me once to see my checkerboard collection.

I am not going to write a paean simply because he has died. Dying does not make you great. He was, by his own admission, not a great man, but he was the most extraordinarily talented and disciplined man I have ever met.

As his assistant, speech editor, occasional chef and babysitter, I got to know him very well. One thing he taught me, indirectly, was discipline about work. He worked every day, and pretty much did the same thing every day of his life. He had a wicked wit and a way of assessing people as objects, saying things like, “That woman reminds me of a great potato.”

At the time I began working for him, the film “Wild Things” was just getting off the ground. It would take another dozen years to bring it to the screen. Among many other projects, we were working on the merchandising of the Wild Things characters, for which he had approval of all things. “The hair is too orange, the whiskers too long.” Everything took forever. He was also working with Tony Kushner on a project about the holocaust, on the sets for the opera “Hansel and Gretel,” illustrating the complete works of Shakespeare, designing a play area and restaurant for the Yerba Buena “Metreon” Center in San Francisco, and the cartoon series, “Little Bear.” President Clinton gave him the Medal of Arts in the snowy winter of 1996, for which I made all arrangements, not including an inadvertent trip to Newark when, while trying to get him settled, the train left with me still on it, my first and only experience as a stowaway.

He was a curmudgeonly figure, cranky and curious, and lived rather unhappily with a terribly unpleasant maid and her grungy husband (who lived on his property). His partner of 40 years, Dr. Eugene Glynn, would visit on weekends. I could never tell if this pleased or annoyed Maurice.

During the Japanese recession of ’97, the entire Sony Retail Entertainment Division (my employers who assigned me to him) would be axed. Even the chairman was canned. I returned to California.

Maurice had the extraordinary ability to recall everything about his childhood in vivid detail. He kept a small box on his dresser that contained the wedding rings of his late parents. On top of the box was a blue and white ceramic dog. I asked him about it on my first tour of his home. “There were about five of those dogs when I was little, that’s the only one left. He guards the rings.” About a year into my job, I was shopping at an antiques store in Greenwich, and found a similar dog from the set. I gave it to him for his birthday.

He wept like a child.

posted by averageamateur at 3:40 PM on June 10, 2013 [27 favorites]

I'm in the milk and the milk's in me...♥
posted by PuppyCat at 3:43 PM on June 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

Brought to you by Bell Atlantic.
posted by rikschell at 3:45 PM on June 10, 2013

Is there a way to see the doodle if you're outside the US? The link just takes me to an ordinary page with no doodle.
posted by chavenet at 3:47 PM on June 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

"Is there a way to see the doodle if you're outside the US?"

Try using a proxy, like
posted by Jacqueline at 3:50 PM on June 10, 2013

It just goes on and on and on, it really is neat! Very well done.
posted by polly_dactyl at 4:03 PM on June 10, 2013

For those outside the US.
posted by markr at 4:10 PM on June 10, 2013 [4 favorites]

Argh! I saw the doodle yesterday (in Australia) on my iPhone & thought how sweet it was, but I totally had not noticed that it was not just the one still image but an animation!
The interview he did with Colbert last year, which The Comedy Channel's website won't show me because I'm not using a proxy to hide that I am in Australia, made me cry and cry.
posted by goshling at 4:25 PM on June 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

I took a literary studies class and we had to say our favorite book. People are saying, "War and Peace," and "Emma," and "Blood Meridian" and such. When it was my turn I said "Where the Wild Things Are," and the teacher paused, looked around, and says, "Max is awesome."
posted by cjorgensen at 4:26 PM on June 10, 2013 [7 favorites]

The Guardian had an odd piece up this morning, hammering this as inappropriate.

I know that is was posted on the blue when it aired, and I doubt anyone who loves Sendak hasn't heard it, but any excuse to post it again in case someone missed it: this interview he did with Terry Gross just before he died is genuinely one of the most affecting pieces of radio I have ever, ever heard.
posted by hydatius at 4:35 PM on June 10, 2013 [2 favorites]

Google archives its doodles here.
posted by seemoreglass at 4:40 PM on June 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

I'm delighted to report that coincidentally today was the day I was finally able to bring this back into print*, AND it even has new material covering some of what Sendak worked on after it was first published. This is an effort I've been working on for almost 14 years and it serendipitously happened on his 85th birthday. I hope he's pleased.
posted by Toekneesan at 5:27 PM on June 10, 2013 [8 favorites]

Is that his dog? Did I see an interview of him where he says the dog saved his life (emotionally)?
posted by HotToddy at 5:51 PM on June 10, 2013

From which book were the pigs and the German Shepherd?
posted by pxe2000 at 5:56 PM on June 10, 2013

Toekneesan, I love stories like yours. Back when I was a bookseller we had the dad of some autistic child come through our store (neither father or child name stuck with me).

Anyway, dad tells me how his kid was/is totally uncommunicative, but that he loves/(ed) Eric Carle to the extent that he reproduces his books with construction paper to the smallest detail. Every tear is the same. Colors, everything. So the kid wants to send Eric one of his constructions. His dad does. So Eric sends back one of his originals.

I fully realize this story may be like the Ophra dude who said he was an addict and it wasn't like he said, so who knows, but I like the story, and if it's not true, shut up you.
posted by cjorgensen at 7:25 PM on June 10, 2013

An apposite story from one of the CSM links -
"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."
posted by islander at 7:47 PM on June 10, 2013 [8 favorites]

Great doodle, but needs more Really Rosie. : )
posted by SisterHavana at 8:23 PM on June 10, 2013 [2 favorites]

Shocking for realz?

“And then we’ll blow ourselves up, and I’d be a hero ... ‘To hell with the kiddie books: He killed Bush!’”

Some conservatives were a bit upset, as I recall. Heh.
posted by homunculus at 8:56 PM on June 10, 2013

No one ever seems to mention my favorite of his books: Higglety Pigglety Pop! Or There Must Be More to Life. That was one creepy-ass book to read as a kid, and I loved it to pieces. Still do.
posted by emcat8 at 9:38 PM on June 10, 2013 [3 favorites]

markr: "For those outside the US."

Thank you! That's fantastic.
posted by chavenet at 11:18 PM on June 10, 2013

The Guardian had an odd piece up this morning, hammering this as inappropriate.

posted by hydatius at 12:35 AM on June 11

The Guardian continues to become increasingly rubbish and increasingly irrelevant. It really is a sad business watching that once-great paper's decline.
posted by Decani at 4:36 AM on June 11, 2013

YES! I love Iggeltje Piggeltje Pop, of Het Leven Moet Meer Waard Zijn (as I know it). It's weird and dark and therefore very, very interesting. It never felt childish to me.

As a child, I disliked stuff that felt like it was intended for children. But this wasn't.
posted by Too-Ticky at 5:25 AM on June 11, 2013 [1 favorite]

Didn't, I mean.
posted by Too-Ticky at 5:30 AM on June 11, 2013

Self-link: not long after Sendak's death I put together (along with the Pinchbottom Players) an episode of my radio show in tribute to the man -- or, rather, a version of him named Murray Kasden from an alternate universe, not far away. It interweaves audio excerpts of actual interviews with Sendak with scenes and elaborations of the semi-fictional Kasden, and some ancillary related material. Please to enjoy:

A Tribute To Murray Kasden

ps: apologies in advance if the project seems sacrilegious, I hope that the love everyone involved has for Sendak and his work is clear in the listening.
posted by slappy_pinchbottom at 4:05 PM on June 11, 2013 [1 favorite]

Too-TIcky, I have been known to randomly exclaim, "No eat! No grow! Shout!" at times, and NO ONE ever knows what the hell I'm talking about. It's nice to meet a fellow Higglety fan.
posted by emcat8 at 10:23 PM on June 12, 2013

« Older 180 Years of Saturdays   |   He's baaaaack! Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments