If you were looking for a reason to crawl inside a dark hole today, Maurice Sendak’s death should do nicely. And if that doesn’t work, read or listen to his interview with Terry Gross last December. You’re welcome.
Beyond Where the Wild Things Are, I don’t believe I encountered much of his work as a child — apparently, I preferred motivational pablum like The Little Engine That Could — but parenthood has given me the chance to spend a lot of time in Sendak’s world, and if I’m grateful to my kids for nothing else, it’s that. Outside Over There — inspired partly by the kidnapping and murder of Charles Lindbergh, Jr. — has become my favorite of his books, and not by a thin margin. Without giving away too much, the story is essentially about an young girl named Ida who is charged with rescuing her baby sister from a pack of goblins who’ve carted her away for some nefarious matrimonial purpose. With her father off at sea and her mother stricken with immobilizing grief, Ida is entirely responsible for her sister’s fate. In an odd way, I love this book for some of the same reasons I love Cormac McCarthy’s The Road (two books that I’m not sure have ever been mentioned in the same sentence): As a parent, I want desperately to know that my kids will be OK when I’m not there, either for the moment or forever. The horror of it all is that I’ll never really know, but Sendak helped reassure me that it will all somehow work out.
Meantime, Dick Cheney’s stolen heart continues to serve its dark, illegitimate master. RIP.