On Being a Wild Thing

“I cry a lot because I miss people. They die and I can’t stop them. They leave me and I love them more.” ― Maurice Sendak

Maurice Sendak is dead at 83. Rachel Maddow reminds us that the important thing is that Maurice Sendak lived; and for four decades I lived with him.

When I was four I read Where The Wild Things Are – a gift from my uncle, I believe – and wanted to be Max. There was a Wild Rumpus in my family’s trailer house every night before bedtime.

In third grade, in Catholic school, in Wyoming, classmates and I read In The Night Kitchen (somehow fear of an illustrated penis didn’t get the book banned from the shelves) and chanted “I’m in the milk, and the milk’s in me!” until Sister Kathleen threw us out of the library and sent us out to the winter playground to freeze the wild things out of us before math lessons began.

In seventh grade, a boy with wild black hair and green eyes stole my heart and never knew it. His name was Max, which is only a coincidence if you believe in such things, which I don’t.

I read Where the Wild Things Are to my baby brothers. I’ve read it to the children of friends. I read it to myself, at least twice a year. I want to go out into the library today and read it to the undergrads who are preparing for finals.

I’m sad today because a good man is gone, a man with whom I had some things in common, and who gave me things he never knew about: a love of rhyme, a feel for the darkness that adumbrates the forced brightness of modern childhood. I’m sad today because I feel I’ve lost a life-long friend who I never met, but who I knew, and who knew me, just the same.

I’m also full of joy today because of those things he gave me, and because this great artist’s work taught me that the Wild Thing your child-self claims is yours forever.

Let the Wild Rumpus start!



Where the Wild Things Are – Adaptation and Representation

The New York Times Magazine has a wonderful article on Spike Jonez’s adaptation of Where the Wild Things Are. For fans of the book, the thought that the studio was afraid the adaptation was “too weird and scary” is nothing but good news, and it sounds like Sendak is behind both Jonze and the adaptation all the way. Continue reading “Where the Wild Things Are – Adaptation and Representation”

Sendak at the Rosenbach

While Maurice Sendak isn’t necessarily thought of as a young adult author, he’s one of those children’s authors that we carry with us for the rest of our lives. Where the Wild Things Are and In the Night Kitchen are books that my friends and I find ourselves quoting around the grad school TA offices – I even had a poster in my office with Max and a couple of Wild Things with the caption “Reading is Fun.” The students that got it, got me. I’ve even known a few guys (and yes, it’s always guys) with Max tattoos, but that’s probably for another post. Continue reading “Sendak at the Rosenbach”