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So the goblins came


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.

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  • c u n d gulag

    R.I.P Mr. Sendak.

    And Colbert had a great interview with him recently (last year?).

  • His Colbert interviews were also incredible.

    [And “Meantime, Dick Cheney’s stolen heart continues to serve its dark, illegitimate master” is a perfectly turned phrase for his updated condition.]

  • Richard

    I knew nothing of Sendak until I became a parent and then read him to my kids on a nearly nightly basis, especially Night Kitchen and Wild Things. Along with Dr. Seuss and Winnie the Pooh, my favorite books to real out loud to kids (also Goodnight Moon to the really young).

    Just this morning, my daughter, now 26 and living in NYC, posted a tribute to Sendak on her Facebook page. Made me a proud father.

  • Pansy

    I listened to that Terry Gross interview while driving home from work. I sobbed the entire way home. I still get choked up thinking about it.

    RIP. He was a big part of my childhood, and has been a big part of my children’s, so far.

    • davenoon

      I don’t think any non-sociopath who listens to that interview could have any other reaction.

  • mark f

    Nicely said. Where the Wild Things Are is perfect, but I’m not at all familiar with his other work. My daughter is getting close to old enough for books a bit more interesting than Pat the Bunny, so I will be exploring his catalogue soon.

    • Try this. For slightly younger ages than Wild Things/Night Kitchen.

      • mark f

        I will, thanks.

  • Davis X. Machina

    My kids played the VHS of to death…. I can sing it all by heart and did, some of it, today.

    • Davis X. Machina

      Really Rosie

      • Ben

        I still remember the first time I realized that those songs I had stuck in my head since I was six were all about death. Nothing quite like it.

  • craig

    Dave, I wish you’d write here more. Thanks for the Terry Gross link

  • rea

    I owe to the man a life-long thirst for chicken soup with rice.

  • swearyanthony

    The last 5 minutes of that last Fresh Air interview would make all but an utter sociopath cry. Live your life, live your life, live your life.

    And he spent nearly 50 years with his partner, and only came out when his partner was dying. That’s just fucked up. (Also, if our g*y hating anonymous troll turns up on this thread to spew hatred, I will figure out how to summon a drone strike. No fucking joking around)

    RIP Maurice Sendak. You wonderful, beautiful magnificent and amazing human being. If I am lucky I will contribute one hundredth of what you did to the world.

    • Barry Freed

      And his parents never knew because it would have caused them disappointment and pain to tell them. I look forward to the time when such a thing is unimaginable in our society. The good news is I think I stand a half-way decent chance of seeing such a time.

      • swearyanthony

        One interview I read he said his parents met his partner Eugene a number of times, but it was never spoken of. This is just a broken situation that should make anyone cry.

  • freight train

    Just had to chime in to say – Outside Over There! So, so amazing! And it contains so much. I love Where the Wild Things Are, sure, but Outside Over There is close to a perfect work of art.

    • davenoon


      • Anonymous

        I have a Sendak illustrated edition of Herman Melville’s Pierre that changed the way I see art itself. The illustrations don’t support the text so much as they move it. I had never heard the term “visual rhetoric” at that point, but Sendak taught me all about it with that work. As many times as I had read Pierre over the years, until that edition came out I felt I hadn’t really read it all. Coming across something like that later in life creates a kind of sublime confusion, which has the effect of making you young again. The great teachers give us just that, and Sendak was one of them. He was really something that guy.

  • swearyanthony

    The best obituary ever in case you missed it, from someone on the Maddow Blog. The headline shouldn’t be “Maurice Sendak Died”. It should be “Maurice Sendak Lived”.

  • elm

    Sendak was an old friend of my family, though I never met him myself. From what my relatives said, he was as wonderful a man as he was a writer.

    “Where the Wild Things Are” and “Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel” were my two favorite books growing up and I can’t remember when the last celebrity death hit me so hard.

    • Izabella

      “I can’t remember when the last celebrity death hit me so hard.”

      That would be Jim Henson’s.

  • DocAmazing

    In the Night Kitchen is as perfect an homage to Winsor McCay as has ever been done, and stands extremely well on its own. For a quick eighties-ninelties “how did we get here?” take, pick up We Are All In the Dumps with Jack and Guy.

    Really Rosie was very much a product of its time, and has stuck with me ever since.

  • Emma in Sydney

    One of my sons is called Mickey. In the Night Kitchen can be recited in our house if the book is unavailable. Sendak spoke to children and adults all over the world for many decades. He will be remembered.

  • patrick II

    Sendak was a treasure, but I just want to say that Terry Gross is a treasure too, and I don’t really hear it said. I have been listening to her for years, and she is the best most insightful interviewer I have ever heard. Mr. Sendak acknowledged, when she asked him about the lines from his book including “never again” that he should have known she would be the one to ask the question because it got to the very core of his book.
    She has been a remarkable presence on NPR for a long time.

  • Ben

    There’s a phenomenal two-page remembrance of Sendak drawn by Art Spiegelman (the Maus guy) recounting a conversation in which Sendak ruminates on the nature of childhood.

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