Arts, Culture & Humanities

Why is Maurice Sendak's book, Where the Wild Things Are, so wildly popular? What does it tell us about ourselves? (October 7, 2009)


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Missing mass culture

Rosemary Joyce

I sit in the theater watching the trailer for the movie of Where the Wild Things Are. My friend, I suspect, knows whether the images on the screen are signs of a good or bad rendition of what I know is a classic book.

I even know the whole story; I won’t repeat it here in case you don’t yet, and want to read it. I can recognize the Sendak drawings and appreciate the originality of his aesthetic.

But I have never seen the book, never read, never touched the covers of a copy. Although it was published when I was young … More >

Comments to "Missing mass culture":
    • Donald Drisban I was doing a little research about disney fairies in the movies when I came across your post. I felt the movie was pretty disturbing and I really came away with a very negative feeling from it. I had hoped that Where the Wild Things Are would have followed the book more and wound up ... More >

Where the Wild Things Are

Peter Hanff

Maurice Sendak’s drawings are filled with humor, sweetness, and hope. They have a quality that draws readers of all ages into the visual worlds he has created. I have watched very young children pore over his illustrations with as much attention as I have done as an adult. The “ferocity” of his creatures is, of course, mitigated by their—admittedly toothy—smiles. And what reader, young or old, can’t identify with the conspiracy of mischief Max perpetrates? For me, Max functions as every-child, much as Dorothy did in the original and innovative Wonderful Wizard of Oz in 1900. When the child character … More >

Comment to "Where the Wild Things Are":
    • Steve Tollefson I think Peter is exactly right. I would add that I don't think any children's author has ever created such cuddly, wonderful "scary" creatures. I've always suspected that the movie Monsters, Inc took some inspiration from this aspect of the book.

On Sendak

Stephen Tollefson

There’s a line in a wonderful newish Norwegian novel  (Out Stealing Horses) that I think applies to Where the Wild Things are:  You decide when it hurts.  In this case, you decide when it’s scary.  And I think Bruno Bettelheim in The Uses of Enchantment would say that a book like this allows kids to get fears over with by reading about them.  They can be frightened in the book, and then don’t have to be at night.  Oh, and for adults, the wonderful drawings.

Comments to "On Sendak":
    • Jenny Thanks for recommendation! I like Where the Wild Things Are, just like Max, we may conquer the world and be the king of the world, but what we really need is our supper on the table. -- You decide when it hurts. Thank you!

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