May 08 2012

Maurice Sendak gone

Maurice Sendak is dead. The books live on.

I read every one of his books to my kids. Where the Wild Things Are, In the Night Kitchen, Pierre — they were all just a little subversive, all just a bit off-kilter, all just off enough to be appropriate to spark a little freethought. I think they reflected his personality.


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  1. 1

    Oh no!

  2. 2
    Gregory in Seattle

    I enjoyed his books too. In tenebris lumen, memoria erit.

  3. 3

    Damn, wrong kind of Colbert bump…

  4. 4

    The best memorial we can give him is to support excellent authorship and artistry in children’s books. I propose sharing your favorites.

    “Blueberry Girl” by Neil Gaiman is a new one to me, it’s quite good.

  5. 5

    Damn, wrong kind of Colbert bump…

    Here it is anyway:

    Grim Colberty Tales with Maurice Sendak

  6. 6
    Gregory in Seattle

    @SallyStrange #4 – My plan for a memorial is the same thing I do for other favored authors who have died. This week, I will hit several used bookstores and get as many of his works as I can find, regsiter the books at BookCrossing; then “release them into the wild” at bus stops, coffee shops, park benches and the like, to be found and enjoyed and passed on to others.

    I can think of no more fitting tribute.

  7. 7
    Stevarious, Public Health Problem


  8. 8

    I like it, Gregory. I like it quite a lot.

  9. 9
    Alexandra (née Audley)

    Oh, this is so sad. I have no other words.


    “Blueberry Girl” by Neil Gaiman is a new one to me, it’s quite good.

    I’m quite fond of Neil Gaiman and Dave McKean’s The Wolves in the Walls, myself.

  10. 10
    Ubi Dubium

    I’ll miss him once,
    I’ll miss him twice,
    I’ll miss him Chicken Soup with Rice!

  11. 11

    At least he lived to see I Am A Pole, And So Can You published. Thank God for small mercies.

  12. 12
    What a Maroon, oblivious

    Eaten by a lion, no doubt.

    I’m sure he doesn’t care.

  13. 13

    Gregory’s idea is great.

    I saw a depressing headline for this: “Where the Wild Things Were”

  14. 14
    Alexandra (née Audley)

    I just called my mom to tell her the sad news. She cried.

    She read us Where the Wild Things Are and In the Night Kitchen when we were little and I remember being entranced by the beautiful detailed illustrations.


  15. 15


  16. 16
    niftyatheist, perpetually threadrupt

    Gregory #6 – I love your idea. I plan to do it too. I hadn’t heard of this idea before – but wow, why not, I wonder? It is sort of like the Flat Stanley thing my kids did when they were young, but so much better, since it is also making great books available to more people!

  17. 17

    He is with the Wild Things.

    Let the rumpus begin.

  18. 18
    Ms. Daisy Cutter, General Manager for the Cleveland Steamers

    I didn’t grow up with any Sendak other than Wild Things (I was more Dr. Seuss, then on to Judy Blume), but it’s sad. He was extremely talented, and his work iconographic.

  19. 19
    PZ Myers

    He is with the Wild Things.

    No, he isn’t, unless the wild things are also all dead and rotting.

    He’s dead.

  20. 20
    PZ Myers

    I wasn’t into Sendak as a kid, either. We got into him with our kids, who would pore over every page of his books.

    Mikey has a penis! The kids were just enchanted with that.

  21. 21

    Maybe not with the Wild Things. But he’s certainly Outside Over There.

  22. 22
    John Scanlon FCD

    ‘Where the Wild Things Are’ won awards the year I was born and was one of very few books* that I was given new as a very young child, rather than shared or handed down from older sibs. I don’t remember a time when I didn’t own it, or any time when I couldn’t read. It’s still in fair condition, but I got a new copy for my kids.

    *Only other extant example: Tolkien’s ‘Smith of Wootton Major’, which also came out the same year (read many times before noticing the same author’s name was on those three fat books on my parent’s shelves…). I don’t know what happened to my copy of Axel Poignant’s ‘Piccaninny Walkabout’.

  23. 23

    No, he isn’t, unless the wild things are also all dead and rotting.

    He’s dead.

    Unless someone here actually thinks that Sendak went to his fictional world when he died, I don’t see the point of this.


    I have two copies of Where the Wild Things Are on my shelf: the one I received as a child, and a backup so I can read the story without wearing out the spine on the original.

    He is quite possibly the reason I’m a Furry*.

    He is definitely the reason I sometimes strut around threateningly with my hands held high and snarl until I get sent to my room.

    *Yes, I’m aware that we’re ridiculous. EVERY hobby is ridiculous. The questions, childlike smiles and occasional hugs I get from strangers are well worth being ridiculous.

  24. 24

    The best thing about Wild Things was the way it accepted anger (while still insisting that inappropriate expressions of such anger were not acceptible). My children and grandchildren loved that book with great passion.

    Don’t be SUCH a poopyhead, PZ. Sendak is, indeed, gone, but the affect he had on generations of Wild Things has not gone. And won’t for a long time. I can’t wait until my great grandchildren are old enough for me to read that to them.

    Thanks, Maurice. You did good.

  25. 25
    Esteleth, [an error occurred while processing this directive]

    I loved Where the Wild Things Are when I was kid.

    We are, as a society, diminished.

    But – Sendak’s work lives on, even if he does not.

  26. 26

    time for an official memorial RUMPUS!

  27. 27
    Esteleth, [an error occurred while processing this directive]

    But remember – the soup will be hot when we get back.

  28. 28

    The Atlantic’s obit has my favorite Sendak quote, from an interview in comics format Sendak did with Art Spiegelman:

    “People say, ‘Oh, Mr. Sendak. I wish I were in touch with my childhood self, like you!’ As if it were all quaint and succulent, like Peter Pan. Childhood is cannibals and psychotics vomiting in your mouth! I say, ‘You are in touch, lady–you’re mean to your kids, you treat your husband like shit, you lie, you’re selfish… That is your childhood self!”

  29. 29

    Update: for the time being, the New Yorker has un-paywalled the full Spiegelman/ Sendak collaboration from 1993.

  30. 30

    Reading In The Night Kitchen as a nipper was the closest I’ve ever come to a drug trip. Never noticed the penis, though.

    As for the author, he is gone, vanished, vamooshed, buggered off, shed this mortal coil, past his live-by date, in memoriam, absconded, deceased, departed, interred (or immolated). He is an ex-Sendak. He’s also dead.

  31. 31

    In the story linked too it describes with just one line that Maurice Sendak lived with a gentlemen named Eugene for c. 50 years and that Eugene was a psychiatrist who specialized in treating young people. it seems rather appropriate for someone who illustrated kids books to have some one like Eugene has his companion. The article also mentions that Eugene died in 2007.

    I’m glad to know Maurice found someone to be with him for most of his life.

  32. 32


    I’ve never read any of his books until very recently (pretty much after the Colbert interview), but if I ever spawn (or if anyone I’m related to ever spawns), the kids are definitely getting his books.

    And I second this sentiment:

    At least he lived to see I Am A Pole, And So Can You published. Thank God for small mercies.

  33. 33

    Via BB, this quote from the Guardian:

    The wild things of Max’s imagination were based on Sendak’s own relatives. He was born in Brooklyn, New York, to Polish Jewish immigrant parents and was aware, in his early teens, of the death of much of his extended family in the Holocaust. The terrors of his childhood specifically, and childhood more generally, flow through his work. “I refuse to lie to children,” he said in an interview with the Guardian last year. “I refuse to cater to the bullshit of innocence.”


  34. 34
    Giliell, professional cynic -Ilk-

    Where the wild things are is one of the first books I can remember. I must have been read it when I was so young that for years it drifted in and out of my conscience, sometimes a feeling, a memory, but nothing concrete until I discovered again: It’s actually a book!
    It’s one of the first books I bought my kids.
    The world is a little less wild now :(

  35. 35

    He contributed much to my childhood, no doubt. I don’t recall many books my parents read to me when I was under 10, but I DO recall WTWTA, because it was one of the few books I wanted them to read to me every night.

    The thing I regret is that he had to live to see what they actually did to WTWTA when they made the movie out of it a couple years back.

    that was TERRIBLE.

    Truly a travesty of a movie that did the book no justice at all.

  36. 36
    Rey Fox

    Did anyone else have the Maurice Sendak book on tape collection read by Tammy Grimes? Total trip.

  37. 37
    gobi's sockpuppet's meatpuppet

    Sorry you didn’t enjoy the film – Sendak put a lot of trust in Spike Jonze and was happy with the result. He defended it on numerous occasions and at one point said if parents thought it was too scary for children they could go to hell. I think his attitude was to let children decide for themselves about the film and not to wrap them in cotton wool and kisses.

  38. 38


    I haven’t heard anyone describe the movie adaptation as being too scary for kids (although I’m sure plenty of people did, because people are stupid). Everyone I know who saw WTWTA had the same complaints I did: it was dull, overlong, emo, and dreary even when it tried to channel the exultant moments. It was just a bad movie.

    That was, if not quite the same words, precisely the same sentiment that my little nephew and other kids I know had about the flick.

  39. 39

    Owen Eagerton’s disturbing review of Sedak’s ‘Night Kitchen’
    I love this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W6peQAt61Dw

  40. 40
    gobi's sockpuppet's meatpuppet

    My comment was just a response to Icthyc thinking that the movie was a travesty, did the book no justice and that there was regret that Sendak lived to see it.
    I disagree, Sendak disagreed, anyone else’s film tastes will vary.

    Admirers of Sendak’s work should also seek out Dear Mili. It was a lost story by Wilhelm Grimm, rediscovered in ‘ 83 and illustrated by Sendak in ’88. Very beautiful and very sad.

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