Last Tuesday, the day before my 42nd birthday, Maurice Sendak, author and illustrator of the hugely popular children’s book, Where the Wild Things Are, died. He was 83 years old.
He was a very creative man, prolific in both his writing and illustrations. And though he had no children himself, and didn’t claim to even write directly for children, his books had a profound impact on them.
In honor of Sendak’s life, Terry Gross of NPR’s radio program Fresh Air, released a compilation of interviews she conducted with Sendak over the years. As a lover of creativity, I found it fascinating to listen to how both the sound of his voice and his values and opinions changed over the years, marking his own evolution as a human being over several decades. For all of you interested in creativity, these interviews are a strong illustration of how none of us are a single thing, but a multitude of shape shifting interests, experiences, reinterpretations of the past, and hopes (or lack there of) for the future. Here’s a bit of the transcript:
“Do parents sit down and tell their kids everything? I don’t know. I don’t know,” he told Gross in a 2003 conversation. “I’ve convinced myself — I hope I’m right — that children despair of you if you don’t tell them the truth.”
Over the years, Sendak corresponded through letters with many of his readers. He called the relationship with them “intensely private.”
“I have been with them in their bedroom, for a good part of their childhood,” he said. “They have written to me. They trust me in a way, I daresay, possibly more than they trust their parents. I’m not going to bull- – – – them. I’m just not. And if they don’t like what they hear, that’s tough bananas.”
Sendak said he never wanted children of his own. He lived for decades with his longtime partner, Eugene Glynn, who died in 2007. Sendak wrote his most recent book Bumble-ardy, while taking care of Glynn.
“When I did Bumble-ardy, I was so intensely aware of death,” he told Gross in 2011. “Eugene, my friend and partner, was dying here in the house when I did Bumble-ardy. I did Bumble-ardy to save myself. I did not want to die with him. I wanted to live, as any human being does. But there’s no question that the book was affected by what was going on here in the house. Bumble-ardy was a combination of the deepest pain and the wondrous feeling of coming into my own. And it took a long time. It took a very long time.”
For the compilation program, as well as links to all the complete interviews with Maurice Sendak, see Fresh Air Remembers Author Maurice Sendak. It is well worth your time to better understand creativity.