Friday, October 16, 2009

Interviews with Maurice Sendak

Today is the opening of Where the Wild Things Are. I'm quite excited and a bit nervous. I hope this movie lives up to my expectations, which are quite great. As a child, I remember countless times when I'd check out this book from the library. I'd loose myself in its pages and wish I could take a voyage like Max. I loved everything about the book: the story, the illustrations, the characters. [I also loved the book Chicken Soup with Rice]. These were truly in my top 10 favorite books.

I don't recall specifically naming my oldest son after the main character, but if I'm honest, I believe I did. I do remember that when we were thinking of names, this book and the name Max came along. One of Max's first books was Where the Wild Things Are. My brother, his uncle, gave it to him with the inscription below:

When I first heard the movie was being made, I came across this conversation with Maurice Sendak on NPR. It is worth a listen. Not surprising, he is quite a character.
I also came across this interview from Newsweek by Ramin Setoodeh and Andrew Romano. There has been some discussion about whether the movie is appropriate for children with its dark undertone (frankly, the book was dark to me). Here is an excerpt of the interview (which includes Spike Jonze and novelist-screenwriter Dave Eggers):

What makes a good kids' story?
Sendak: How would I know? I just write the books. But I do know that my parents were immigrants and they didn't know that they should clean the stories up for us. So we heard horrible, horrible stories, and we loved them, we absolutely loved them. But the three of us—my sister, my brother, and myself—grew up very depressed people.

The monsters were based on adults, right?
Sendak: The monsters were based on relatives. They came from Europe, and they came on weekends to eat, and my mom had to cook. Three aunts and three uncles who spoke no English, practically. They grabbed you and twisted your face, and they thought that was an affectionate thing to do. And I knew that my mother's cooking was pretty terrible, and it also took forever, and there was every possibility that they would eat me, or my sister or my brother. We really had a wicked fantasy that they were capable of that. We couldn't taste any worse than what she was preparing. So that's who the Wild Things are. They're foreigners, lost in America, without a language. And children who are petrified of them, and don't understand that these gestures, these twistings of flesh, are meant to be affectionate. So there you go.

What do you say to parents who think the Wild Things film may be too scary? Sendak: I would tell them to go to hell. That's a question I will not tolerate.

Because kids can handle it?
Sendak: If they can't handle it, go home. Or wet your pants. Do whatever you like. But it's not a question that can be answered.

Jonze: Dave, you want to field that one?

Eggers: The part about kids wetting their pants? Should kids wear diapers when they go to the movies? I think adults should wear diapers going to it, too. I think everyone should be prepared for any eventuality.

Sendak: I think you're right. This concentration on kids being scared, as though we as adults can't be scared. Of course we're scared. I'm scared of watching a TV show about vampires. I can't fall asleep. It never stops. We're grown-ups; we know better, but we're afraid.

If you are interested, I'd encourage you to read the entire interview. These excerpts were taken from that interview and should not stand alone. They just make me laugh and gave me better insight on the author. Personally, I like him more.

Still haven't decided if I'm fighting the crowd to see the movie tonight. But, I'm waiting with baited breath!

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