Tuesday, May 8, 2012

A Few Thoughts on How to Remember Maurice Sendak

My guess is that I am still on the ascending curve of what is likely to be an onslaught of obituary and memorial pieces written in response to the news of the death of Maurice Sendak. I wonder, however, whether anything I have yet to read will rise to the level of John Williams’ post to the ArtsBeat blog of The New York Times this morning. Most important was how few of the words in this post were Williams’ own. Mostly, he let Sendak do the talking with two notable exceptions.

One was a quote from Ursula Nordstrom, Sendak’s editor at Harper & Row:
You may not be Tolstoy, but Tolstoy wasn’t Sendak, either. You have a vast and beautiful genius.
The other was the decision to include links to both parts of his interview with Stephen Colbert (in Colbert’s Colbert Report persona). I have no idea how much of this was cooked up in advance. However, Colbert fed him a wonderful assortment of thoroughly clueless lines; and Sendak replied with an unabashed openness that we almost never encounter in more “formal” author interviews. (Also, unlike Geoffrey Nunberg, Sendak never tried to upstage Colbert at his own game. He just played by Colbert Report rules, and played very well.)

Others may wish to remember Sendak for his “vast and beautiful genius;” I prefer to remember the particularly irreverent ways in which he could harness that genius.

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