Maurice Sendak: different sides of a fascinating author
The release of Sendak's new book, 'Bumble-ardy,' lets readers see both the tender and curmudgeonly sides of the children's writer
One of the joys of a new Maurice Sendak book is reading the book, of course. But another is seeing the spate of frank, illuminating new interviews with the author-illustrator, now 83. And it’s striking to see the different slants of the articles and the different information each writer managed to elicit.Skip to next paragraph
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Many book fans, for instance, already love Terry Gross of National Public Radio for her intelligent questions and ability to draw out subjects. It turns out Sendak is a fan as well, telling her how pleased he was to learn she wanted to call him up once more. He talked with her about the sadness of missing loved ones who were gone, including his partner of 50 years, Eugene Glynn, as well as the “blessing” of living to old age and appreciating the world’s beauty. He and Glynn “lived together for all of the years so that we [could] make trips to our favorite places in Europe, so that we could read our favorite books, so that we could and this is most important – we could listen to music,” he told Gross. And he was glad he didn’t have children of his own – he would have loved to have a daughter, he told her, but a real one “would be hard work, work I would not want to do.”
Sendak’s new book, “Bumble-ardy,” the tale of a pig who holds his first-ever birthday party at age 9, struck Gross in particular for two “loaded” lines after the pig’s aunt throws out his friends. The aunt tells him ““Okay smarty, you've had your party but never again. And then Bumble-ardy says in tears, "I promise, I swear, I won't ever turn 10.”
Gross says that the “never again” makes her think of the Holocaust. Sendak tells her those are his favorite lines in the book, and no one has had her take on them before.
“Those two lines are essential … but I won't pretend that I know exactly what it means,” he told her. “I only know it touches me deeply, and when I thought of it, I was so happy I thought of it. It came to me, which is what the creative act is all about.”
He told Gross at the tender, introspective interview’s end that she is the only person who has ever brought out such things in him. “There’s something very unique and special in you, which I so trust,” he told her. And then he said, “And almost certainly, I'll go before you go, so I won't have to miss you.”
His interview with The Guardian comes off as far more curmudgeonly, with the reporter commenting that “at 83, Sendak is still enraged by almost everything that crosses his landscape.” His take for the reporter on ebooks, for instance: "I hate them. It's like making believe there's another kind of sex. There isn't another kind of sex. There isn't another kind of book! A book is a book is a book." His take on Roald Dahl, a fellow children’s author with adult appeal? "The cruelty in his books is off-putting. Scary guy. I know he's very popular but what's nice about this guy? He's dead, that's what's nice about him."