I woke up this morning and habitually checked my Twitter feed, only to be told by a very busy trend that Maurice Sendak had passed today at the age of 83. I was saddened, but I instantly remembered his many achievements and smiled. Both within the literary sphere and for me personally...
Maurice Sendak is arguably the most important children's book author/artist of our time, and his famous story 'Where the Wild Things Are' can be recognised by many. Yes, we all loved how Max got up to mischief in his wolf suit, and created a wonderful world within his imagination. But there was something much more deeper at play here. With this tiny self-written, self-illustrated book came a genre-breaking tale set to change the nature of children's stories forever. There were fairytales... and then there were Sendak's hauntingly beautiful tales, dancing in the darkness of the human psyche. He was a fearlessly honest writer, who didn't intend to write stories for children but spoke to them in a way not many others could. And although he was widely criticised for this, Sendak always faced his difficulties with the utmost courage. He taught children to face it through his books.
For me personally, 'Where the Wild Things Are' was always a go-to book. It was a comforter. I could confide in Max when the world was against me (who knows, maybe I got in trouble for something stupid), run away, rumble with some monsters, let loose with my emotions and be prepared to come back and face those troubles level headed. Max was there, and he could assure me that everything would be better this time round. Hell, I should probably revert back to this way of dealing with things!!?
As the library leader of my primary school, Sendak's works were always displayed in the priority spots... and when it came time for the annual school performance, I played that tiny yellow flower in our stage rendition of the story with so much pride (nerdy book girls have no dance skills). It's so hard to put into words what his work meant to me. This is a sad day for library leaders. For children.
Ever since I heard his interview with Terry Gross last year I realised just how much this man was in tune with himself and everything around him. He spoke so eloquently on life and love lost. And when prompted to face his own mortality, said "I have nothing but praise now, for my life. I'm not unhappy. I cry a lot, because I miss people. I cry a lot because they die, and I can't stop them. They leave me. And I love them more...And it's what I dread, more than anything, is the isolation.... Oh God, there are such beautiful things in the world, which I will have to leave when I die. But I'm ready, I'm ready, I'm ready". It was poignant then, but even more so now. I know that when Maurice Sendak gets back home, his supper will still be waiting and it will be hot. Just the way he likes it.
And he sailed off through night and day
and in and out of weeks
and almost over a year
to where the wild things are.
R.I.P Maurice Sendak, literary legend.
For those who'd like to hear the story again...