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Missing mass culture

Rosemary Joyce, professor of anthropology | October 12, 2009

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 enough to read it to my baby brother, it never made the rotation with “One Fish, Two Fish” or “Are you My Mommy?”

So what does that say about the status of a book like this, a cultural phenomenon that can be known well beyond where it has been read or owned or, I imagine, loved?

My friend, as I expected, has an opinion about the trailer. She is not sure it is a good sign; the spirit of the book may not be there; she will of course go to see the movie. She will have to; after all, it is Where the Wild Things Are.

And I agree. We will have to see it. The Wild Things we see on screen do not match my imagination, what I have come to understand about this book that I do not know of my own experience, but about which I know what to think because so many people around me have their childhood impressions to use as touchstones in everyday conversations that casually yet completely embed this invisible book in my consciousness too.

Comments to “Missing mass culture

  1. 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 with a happy ending back at Max’s house but it didn’t. This was one of my favorite books as a kid and to read to my daughters today but the movie was a big disappointment.


  2. New Yorker film critic David Denby weighs in on the Where the Wild Things Are movie. By the way, Spike Jonze, director of WTWTA, also helmed Adaptation and Being John Malkovich, so he’s no stranger to challenging projects.

    If you’re a fan of the book, do you plan on seeing the movie?

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