Be Still

h1 May 8th, 2012 by jules


“[O]ne of Sendak’s most lovingly rendered pages, one of his most graphically succinct and nonetheless articulate expressions of deep meaning.”
– From Gregory Maguire’s “A Sendak Appreciation,”
The Horn Book, November/December 2003

I am so sad to hear about the passing of Maurice Sendak. What a loss for us all. I have been sitting in shock for a while, while I sit back and watch the news explode at places like Twitter and Facebook. I wish right about now I were a poet.

But the New York Times did well with this:

In book after book, Mr. Sendak upended the staid, centuries-old tradition of American children’s literature, in which young heroes and heroines were typically well scrubbed and even better behaved; nothing really bad ever happened for very long; and everything was tied up at the end in a neat, moralistic bow. … A largely self-taught illustrator, Mr. Sendak was at his finest a shtetl Blake, portraying a luminous world, at once lovely and dreadful, suspended between wakefulness and dreaming. In so doing, he was able to convey both the propulsive abandon and the pervasive melancholy of children’s interior lives.

I still remember Roger Sutton’s 2003 Horn Book interview with Maurice. (Note: Roger has a brief tribute to his friend at his blog today, the best part being where he describes Sendak as “an omnivorous and eloquent consumer of art in all forms, and a wicked mimic who had the most impressive command of obscene language that I have ever heard.”) In that 2003 Horn Book interview, they discussed death. Sendak said,

[D]eath is a comfort because that’s what saves you. Suffering, cancer, some horrible disease, I’m terrified of pain. Death will just take you away from that. So what’s to be afraid of? It’s a cessation of pain. What more could you ask? It’s like the good nurse. … I think the most graceful thing offered us is sleep without dreams. That is so sensible.

He also said in that same interview, “you come on a wisp of air and you go on a wisp of air.”

I just didn’t think it’d be so soon.

Here’s hoping he gets his dreamless sleep.

Note: Don’t miss these words from the Rosenbach Museum & Library. They include an art gallery.

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23 comments to “Be Still”

  1. Ah, Jules — thought of you at once when I read the news.

    I loved the NYT obituary, though. Especially this:

    “A w’man came up to me the other day and said, ‘You’re the kiddie-book man!’” Mr. Sendak told Vanity Fair last year. “I wanted to kill her.”

    Ha! to that.


  2. Yes. Classic. And as to her comment … well. I never. I hope she walked away really quickly.


  3. [...] a post today over at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast, blogger Julie Danielson shared a quotation from an interview Sendak did with Horn Book editor [...]


  4. :(


  5. so very sad…I feel as though I’ve lost a dear, beloved friend.


  6. So shocked to see the news on a Twitter feed when I went to the Children’s Book Council site to share the winners from last night with my students. There is a deep sadness in the very air we all breathe today.


  7. he came along at just the right time to shape you and me and the other readers of our generation into the passionate, devoted, take-no-prisoners book lovers we are now. no one else could ever come close.


  8. He was magic.


  9. I feel sad, too.


  10. Thanks for the links, Jules. It’s a sad day.


  11. I heard the news in the car and really thought I might have to pull over. I love all that you have shared with us to read. I needed it.


  12. Legend. Two of the best interviews done this year with anyone were both with him. One with Stephen Colbert and the other on NPR’s Fresh Air. Terry Gross’s interview made me cry.


  13. Sorry, the NPR interview was last year.


  14. I love his comment about death.


  15. Love “and it was still hot.” It evokes so much in so few words.

    And from the article: “..he was able to convey both the propulsive abandon and the pervasive melancholy of children’s interior lives.”

    What a remarkable human being. He did so much.


  16. Earlier this year, my other illustrator-hero, Ralph McQuarrie also died at the age of 83. It makes me wonder: who will replace these great artistic talents in this day and age of digital noise. Do people have time to create this way anymore?


  17. [...] Walker Danielson, “Be Still.”Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast, 8 May [...]


  18. [...] Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast a blog about books « Be Still [...]


  19. What a loss! I read it to my children so many times that I memorized it, complete with gestures and sounds for my grandchildren. The world is better for his being.


  20. I have been sad since I heard the news, and even still can’t quite stop reading the articles and interviews. My hope is that now he will somehow know and feel how much love and respect there is for him in this world that he no longer shares with us.


  21. [...] Maurice Sendak said, “I think the most graceful thing offered us is sleep without dreams. That is so sensible.” [...]


  22. [...] This year will see the publication of the Candlewick book Betsy Bird, Peter D. Sieruta, and I wrote, which we began working on in 2009. Sadly, Peter passed away unexpectedly in May (not long after we lost Maurice Sendak, which had me reeling, as it did many people, and which I wrote about, falteringly, here). [...]


  23. […] is the book’s last page and my favorite page from The Land of All Picture Books; I posted it here when I first read about Sendak’s death in May of last year. As I noted in that post, Gregory […]


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