Conversations with Maurice Sendak, edited by Peter C. Kunze (2016)

Conversations with Maurice Sendak, edited by Peter KunzeHow does one capture the man who gave us Where the Wild Things Are, In the Night Kitchen, and the joyful illustrations for A Hole Is to Dig? Who created stunning backdrops to modern productions of The Nutcracker and Hansel and Gretel? Who brought to life the beautiful play Brundibar and revealed its own tragic, heartbreaking story of creation? Author and illustrator Maurice Sendak ignored the conventions of the day when he emerged as an inventive illustrator whose work truly captured the capricious, joyful and rage-filled minds of children. Kunze, a doctoral student at the University of Texas, drew on an extensive set of source material in choosing the final 12 interviews that comprise this entry in the Literary Conversations series. The interviews span some 45 years, from the 1966 interview for The New Yorker that appeared after Sendak won the Caldecott Medal for Where the Wild Things Are, to the 2011 NPR interview that aired when Sendak published Bumble-Ardy, just months before his death in early 2012 at the age of 83. The collection reveals Sendak as a complex artist, from a playful and teasing artist with Ted Geisel in a 1982 interview by Glenn Sadler to a reflective man deeply impacted by world events in the 2003 conversation with Horn Book editor Roger Sutton. In the final two interviews Sendak discusses the loss of his life partner Eugene Glynn and the refuge from grief his art provided during this painful time. He champions children’s resilience throughout, from illustrating Max’s rage at his parental restrictions to the decision to let a girl die in Hansel & Gretel – “They knew perfectly well she wasn’t dead, but she was acting dead.” He reflects on poetry and the ability of a writer to create wind and dismiss time. Together, the interviews paint a portrait of a man who challenges himself as an artist, who acknowledges the contributions of his mentors and accepts his emerging role as a mentor to others, who finds peace in looking at a tree, and who, above all, seeks always to raise the world’s respect for children and the way they see the world. Obviously the more you know of Sendak’s work, the more revealing the collection will be, however, it is accessible to all who have even a passing acquaintance with his oeuvre. Read this one slowly, and let Sendak’s words percolate. While the advance reading copy I had had no illustrations, the final edition includes some 75 images, according to the list included at the end of the book. There’s also a helpful chronology, and the editor introduces the book with a summary and context for each interview selected. My thanks to the publisher, University Press of Mississippi, for the advance reading copy provided through NetGalley, in exchange for my honest review.
More discussion and reviews of this book:


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s