Without Blinking Once

May 8, 2012

I tuned in to NPR this afternoon and heard the gravelly sound of a familiar voice. My stomach plummeted when the voice-over explained that this was an older interview. Replaying someone’s earlier interviews on the radio is never a good sign. Sure enough, it was a tribute piece to beloved American “not just children’s” author Maurice Sendak, who died today at the age of eighty-three.

Like many of my generation, I fell in love with Where the Wild Things Are as a child, but only later came to appreciate the full extent of the author’s wit and insight. Just a few months ago, I burst out into uncontrollable laughter in a crowded coffee shop when I watched Sendak’s cutting humor dissect the national elections process during his two-part interview on The Colbert Report.

The Colbert Report Mon – Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Grim Colberty Tales with Maurice Sendak Pt. 1
www.colbertnation.com
http://media.mtvnservices.com/mgid:cms:item:comedycentral.com:406796
Colbert Report Full Episodes Political Humor & Satire Blog Video Archive

(Click to watch part 2 of the interview.)

A friend of and collaborator with the likes of Tony Kushner and Gregory Maguire, Sendak left a legacy not limited to children. In 2003, Kushner wrote this in a biography of Sendak excerpted The Guardian:

Children’s literature may reflect the pleasant, booming confusion of the world in a thousand ways; it may describe earthly pleasures; it may be the most profoundly materialist (in the philosophical sense) and the most thoroughly sensual literature. But it is the product of a solitary, and a lonely, pursuit. For the great adult creators of children’s books, the work at hand is a reclamation, through the difficult exploration of feelings most people have forgotten, of the past.

“Children surviving childhood” was, Sendak said, his “obsessive theme.” That being said, when I sat in a darkened movie theater a few years ago, watching the credits roll at the end of the film version of Where the Wild Things Are, I felt no less championed by the author in that moment than I did when I first encountered it fifteen-plus years ago.

Thank you for that, Mr. Sendak. You will be missed.

Listen further: “Fresh Air Remembers Author Maurice Sendak.”