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Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Love you, Maurice, you wild thang!

My all time favorite book from childhood, "Where the Wild Things Are" appealed to me because it was dark and powerful, like all good fairy tales, but especially because it was illustrated with such a gusto and knowledge for the monsters under my bed.

I hated going to sleep. I would invent all kinds of excuses and end up falling asleep much later than my parents ever wanted me to-- I loved action so I wanted to be around the grown ups playing Pinochle and laughing around the kitchen table. Or I wanted to be watching the Movie of the Week on TV, or doing whatever people did when they weren't asleep. In essence, I was afraid of the dark. I believed in those Wild Things, their roars sounded like the toilet flushing, a sound I dreaded as a small child.

Although I was already learning to read when the book came out, I had a younger brother to whom I read it to, loving best the unscripted bit where the Wild Rumpus begins and the childlike Things and Max swing around the forest. I remember when I first saw a photograph of the author and immediately saw the relationship between him and the those wild Things. There had to be a connection.

That is why I like this article on Maurice Sendak: in it I learned that the author of my favorite book actually based his Things on family members, with their crazy nosehair and disheveled appearances. So much of our art is influenced by our childhood memories. That's probably why I love making items out of playing cards and my grandparents' old National Geographic magazines and discarded school encyclopedias.

I feel connected to these nostalgic threads from my childhood. They are saturated with meaning. And although I no longer fear the dark these days and enjoy drifting off to sleep, "Where the Wild Things Are" is still my favorite picture book and Maurice Sendak my favorite translator of childhood dreams.

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