The news of the death of children’s writer and illustrator Maurice Sendak rings all over the internet like fire bell last night. And that news still pains me this morning, deeply. The image above has been my computer’s wallpaper for almost two years, a screenshot taken from Spike Jonze’s movie adaptation of Sendak’s children’s book Where the Wild Things Are (the movie, bearing the same title, is the most heart-wrenching film I’ve seen in 2009). It shows Max, the child protagonist, and a Wild Thing, cleverly named as Carol, leisurely walking in a vast desert.
I was never quite sure why I stuck to this picture for a long time until I re-read the book last night. I think I get it. I think it tells me that there’s a lifelong link between us, young ones and old ones, and a Wild Thing, that no matter how far we go, a Wild Thing will be forever with us, in us, bursting with outsized life, animated, daring, maybe even terrifying, and that we need a little bit of nightmares to get through the petty hardships, the requisite trials in life, the vast desert, to “let the wild rumpus start!” when a situation calls for it.
For that thought alone, I feel better. Even if Sendak has gone, his Wild Things are still with me, along with the rest of the Max’s in the world. And wherever he is going, I am sure that somewhere he will find his supper waiting for him “still warm.”