— 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.