If you couldn’t tell from my new article, I love Maurice Sendak. (No, my favorite story of his isn’t Wild Things. It’s Outside Over There, the basis for the film Labyrinth, and Sendak’s self-described most depressing book.)
1. The monsters were based on relatives. They came from Europe, and they came on weekends to eat, and my mom had to cook. Three aunts and three uncles who spoke no English, practically. They grabbed you and twisted your face, and they thought that was an affectionate thing to do. And I knew that my mother’s cooking was pretty terrible, and it also took forever, and there was every possibility that they would eat me, or my sister or my brother. We really had a wicked fantasy that they were capable of that. We couldn’t taste any worse than what she was preparing. So that’s who the Wild Things are. They’re foreigners, lost in America, without a language. And children who are petrified of them, and don’t understand that these gestures, these twistings of flesh, are meant to be affectionate. So there you go.
- Maurice Sendak, from the Newsweek interview
2. Finally, [Sendak] got to talking about the difference between anti-Semitism when he was a youngster and how it is now. He says that it hasnâ€™t changed much, and told me this interesting anecdote. He has a kind of — donâ€™t know what to call it; a fantasy? — in which some anti-Semite comes to his door with a shotgun and asks, â€œAre you a Jew b*****d?â€ To which he answers: â€œI am a Jew, and youâ€™re the bastard. Fire away, f***face.â€
The wild things Maurice Sendak saysâ€¦.
- Ken Gordon, in his interview on JBooks.com
3. I fell in love with the new versions. They were gentler, they were kinder. Underneath, of course, they were capable of the same terrible things. One of them puts Max in her mouth. There always is the possibility that something might go wrong, and youâ€™ll get eaten. And you donâ€™t know what it is that might go wrong. What youâ€™ll say or what youâ€™ll do that will provoke a Wild Thing to eat you. I love watching animal movies on television. One of the only things I like. And they always say, donâ€™t do this and donâ€™t do that, donâ€™t run away and donâ€™t turn your back and donâ€™t lie flat. I love that. Itâ€™s from my childhood. How do you prevent dying? How do you prevent being eaten or mauled by a monster? I still worry about it.
- Sendak again, from the Newsweek outtakes