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19 thoughts on A lovely read

  1. I agree and liked the interview too. I admit I never heard of this dude before. Thanks for the post. I’m trying to read as much as I can before I croak too.

  2. I think people should take a test: you should or shouldn’t have a child…..Well, you should be as sane as possible. You should have had a childhood that was as decent as possible. A mother and father who cared about you. If you don’t have those components of compassion and love and curiosity, don’t do it.

    Oh. Okay then. I guess I’ll go tell my wife the kid needs to be in foster care. Since, you know, between the gay marriage and the fact that we both had kinda shitty childhoods in some ways, we’re pretty much never going to raise her well.

    1. Fuck, I’m out.

      Oh wait, does he mean the legal definition of insane or the cultural definition? There might be some wiggle room here…

    2. I believe Mr Sendak is gay. He certainly had a male partner for most of his life.

      I think when you parse his comments in context of the larger description of his family life – that there was a lot of untreated mental illness, and that children were harmed because they were raised by parents unequipped to deal with them – what he’s saying makes a bit more sense. He’s generalizing wildly, but then, he’s a children’s author, not a sociologist or political theorist.

      1. Oh, I know he’s gay. Didn’t stop Rupert Everett from saying the worst thing ever is being raised by a gay couple.

        I don’t believe in giving people magical bigotry passes for liking a certain set of plumbing. Or for being a children’s author – in fact, that’s more reason to be moral, not less. I mean, are you fucking seriously saying that I shouldn’t care if someone who writes books my CHILD will read is telling her that her family is wrong and evil? Or that her mother should never have given birth to her because she’s depressed? Hm?

        1. I don’t know Mac, I’m inclined to give him a pass on this one because it seems pretty clear in context that he’s speaking out of the pretty bad trauma of his own childhood–he doesn’t go into detail about how his mother was “crazy,” but there’s enough of that in my family that I can sympathize. With that context, I can see saying “as sane as possible” as a criterion, and indeed have heard it from friends, and even people on here, especially because “as possible” is a hell of a qualifier. I think that people on here are less likely to use “sane” and more likely to use, oh, “emotionally reliable,” but that’s the difference, I think, between being young and au courant with progressive thought and being old and not immersed on those circles.

        2. No, he wasn’t saying that anyone’s family is wrong and evil. He was talking about his own mother — with a lot of retrospective compassion — and what it was like for him, and his brother and sister, as a child. Of course he shouldn’t be generalizing, but it’s not what I’d call a manifestation of bigotry.

  3. Didn’t do much for me, I have to admit. The “I’m a crotchety old man so I can say whatever I like” oeuvre has never interested me, and while I’m sure Sendak has a lot of wisdom to share, he was indulging in a lot of harsh judgment of folks that read to me more as bitter than as funny.

    1. I like it a lot. He’s got a lot to be bitter about, and to be honest, I’ve never understood the bad rap bitterness has got. He’s not bitter about art. He’s not bitter about his brother and sister or his late partner. He’s not bitter about his own work or about the children who appreciate it. He’s bitter about the death of his family in the Holocaust, about watching his friends die of old age and feeling out of place, and about the state of publishing, all of which seems reasonable to me. And I didn’t see him slagging off a lot of people. Just Rushdie. Which may be justified, I don’t know, I can’t find the review of Dear Mili.

      But it’s classic Sendak, putting human darkness right out there.

  4. I found it very interesting and sad. it reminded me of my late father and how his difficult parents, the war and migration affected him. Still, so much hyperbole and affectation for the benefit of the interviewer. And bonus points for pontificating about not having children when clearly he didn’t have an urge for it himself.

  5. I’m not sure if it was hyperbole and affectation so much as deliberately exaggerating his crotchety old man-ness for humorous purposes — largely successfully, I thought — without hiding his real bitterness.

    And why shouldn’t he be bitter?

    I really liked a lot of things he said, including this comment about loving books as objects when he was a child:

    Picture books depend on color, largely. And they haven’t perfected the color in those machines. But it’s not that. It’s giving up a form that is so beautiful. A book is really like a lover. It arranges itself in your life in a way that is beautiful. Even as a kid, my sister, who was the eldest, brought books home for me, and I think I spent more time sniffing and touching them than reading. I just remember the joy of the book; the beauty of the binding. The smelling of the interior. Happy.

    I felt very much the same way, and vividly remember the joy of holding certain books in my hands and savoring their bookness.

    I also very much identified with this:

    The shock of thinking of the people I will never know was terrible. The photographs my father had of his younger brothers, all handsome and interesting looking, and the women with long hair and flowers. And who were they? I tried to give them back to my parents when I illustrated some short stories by Isaac Bashevis Singer. Marvelous stories. And I went through the album and picked some of my mother’s relatives and some of my father’s and drew them very acutely. And they cried. And I cried. So there was that. And there still is that.

    I don’t know; maybe one has to have experienced something similar oneself to understand what he means.

    1. There were definitely nuggets of excellence in the interview, no question. And I found echoes of my father in Sendak and his parents, particularly in the memories of the constant criticism.

  6. t’s very discouraging. Which is probably why I’m going back in time. I’m a lucky man, I can afford to do that. I can afford to live here in silence, in these trees and these flowers, and not get involved with the world

    Her children mean almost nothing to me, maybe because they’re maladjusted. That sounds unkind. I know. I don’t want to be with maladjustment anymore.

    Beautiful and honest. I really enjoyed it.

  7. Alexandra and macavitykitsune and Donna L – Toward the end of his life, Sendak probably underwent the loss of inhibitions that’s pretty common among the very old. If have old relatives, you probably knwo that it can lead to them say things that are sometimes outrageously offensive and sometimes perceptive and beautiful.

    Sendak’s work by itself was provocative enough. For those who don’t know him (Iike TomSims), it’s worth saying that he transformed children’s literature by showing young children with strong negative emotions like rage, fear, and guilt. Where the Wild Things Are provoked a storm of critical attack. In the Night Kitchen was a banned book. Outside Over There tells a terrifying story. If he had been out it would probably have destroyed his career. And he never did come out until he was an old man.

    In this interview and in several others after his partner died you get the sense of a person who no longer cares what other people think. He says a lot of outrageous things, many of them contradictory. There’s a feeling of enormous relief as the need to censor every thought floats away.

    The Terry Gross interview he refers to is here:

    There’s a Colbert interview here–1

    And another:

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