November 14, 2011


I recently read an article about Maurice Sendak, author of numerous children’s’ books, the most famous of them being Where the Wild Things Are. At 83 he lives alone in Connecticut and walks with a cane which he says he uses “for hitting people” (The Week, 10/21/11). He still writes and does some occasional tutoring with summer students. Neither process seems to give him much pleasure. As to the latter, the article passes along this:  

         “…I don’t know how to tell them [students] the truth: It’s a waste of time.  Publishing is vulgar and cheap and they won’t make a living.”

(Maurice Sendak: “Where the Wild Things Are”)

Of course Sendak makes a living from his works so why he should preclude that hope for others is the question. Still, I don’t doubt Sendak’s disaffection with his existence. Though he has enjoyed fame and fortune, at the end of his life, having lost his companion of 50 years, he has become bitter. . 

What can one say to a writer of children’s stories who sees himself trapped in a world that “stinks,” where “Everything is decaying,” and the “lack of culture” depresses him?  

If Maurice Sendak were in my company I’d remind him that while life decays, it also renews. If the world stinks, I suspect he is looking too closely at the one man made. I’d advise him to look in his garden. There he’ll find more beauty than any painting hanging in the Louvre. In the park he’d discover more miracles than in the greatest stories ever told. In a single flower he’d discover more mystery than any which lies between the covers of a book.

I preach no religion, but if Mr. Sendak were in my company, I’d advise him to think less about expectations and simply look about him.