Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Discovering Maurice Sendak

I must confess that I did not know too much about Maurice Sendak, besides his Jewish background and that he wrote Where the Wild Things Are, a book that I discovered and fell in love with as a young adult. I suppose I am not the only one, and Conversations with Maurice Sendak, a book edited by Peter C. Kunze makes justice to this author and illustrator. Without being an authorized biography, this collection of 12 interviews with and articles about him outlines his sensibilities, his hobbies and, more than anything, his deep sadness and nostalgy. 
The disadvantage of this format is that many details are repetitive. The advantage is that you are offered an overview of Sendak's activity and thoughts. The reader will discover, among others, that Sendak loved music, particularly opera and Mozart, and that he worked also for theater, opera or television. Music influenced him greatly, hence his opinions on illustrations that 'should have a sence of music and dance and are not something glued onto the page'. He was also an avid literature reader, with Melville and Kleist on his inspirational list of authors.
More a self-made author than an educated one - 'studying is doing' - Sendak was a complex personality who contributed to the redefinition of the children illustrations and literature in general after WWII. In his opinion, reading must be a complete experience to children: 'I've seen children touch books, fondle books, smell books and it's all the reason in the world why books should be beautifully produced'. The ideas of his books is based on a different understanding on the relationship between childhood and adulthood: 'Children do live in a fantasy and reality, they move back and forth very easily in a way that we no longer remember'. However, writing should be just writing, not necessarily writing for children: '(...) I write books and I hope that they are books anybody can read'; 'I don't believe in people who consciously write for children'. 
Drawing and writing are for him two distinct activities, that may complemelt each other: 'I find myself writing things that I don't like to draw, as if I where two separate people'. 
This book is an inspiration to read more by Maurice Sendak, but also to think more seriously about children books and literature in general.
Rating: 4 stars
Disclaimer: Book offered by the publisher in exchange of an honest review

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