Thursday, May 10, 2012
This week, we lost one of the true geniuses of children's literature and art: the absolutely magnificent Maurice Sendak. Like virtually every American under the age of 40, I grew up with Where the Wild Things Are; it was a touchstone book (and one that also, though I'd forgotten it somehow, was the source for my mother's often-repeated "I'll eat you up I love you so"). I also loved the Little Bear books, and had more than passing acquaintance with Really Rosie and Chicken Soup with Rice.
In college, a good friend made me aware of In the Night Kitchen, which I'd either never encountered, or seen as a small child and forgotten; it too immediately became one of my Great Books.
It was through Sendak's illustrations for the Tony Kushner-written picture book that I came to know the story of Brundibar; their book is absolutely chilling.
When I finally heard an interview with Sendak - on NPR, of course - I was delighted beyond expression; such a curmudgeon! so adamant in his refusal to sentimentalize children! In the literary world, where so many authors have decidedly unpleasant attitudes and personae, it is a true joy to find that a favorite author/illustrator is also a person about whom I can be excited.
There have been plenty of great words written about Sendak, even before his death, and I can't add much to the elegiacs around the internet. I will link to this wonderful post by Kenneth Kidd, which says pretty much everything I've thought, and also appropriately spotlights the queerness of Sendak's work.
And I'll link, again, to the glorious art project Terrible Yellow Eyes, which ran from 2009-2010; in the tribute/inspired-by artworks, I find any number of images that are more than suitable as farewells. The image posted at the top of this post is by Chuck Groenink.
The image that immediately came to mind, upon hearing of Sendak's death, was this one, though, which has long been my favorite Terrible Yellow Eyes piece: Nate Wragg's diorama that manages to capture something of the melancholy and loss that seems inherent in the book. The lone Wild Thing, carefully holding the crown with no wearer, is a perfect image-tribute to the already greatly-missed Sendak.
Wragg's piece is titled, of course, "Wish you were here."