RIP Maurice Sendak, son of Depression-era Bensonhurst

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Brooklyn, according to Maurice Sendak.

“Where the Wild Things Are” writer and illustrator Maurice Sendak not only redrew children’s literature, he was inspired to do so by his difficult Bensonhurst childhood. From the Washington Post obituary:

Mr. Sendak was shaped foremost by a sickly and homebound childhood in Depression-era Brooklyn, the deaths of family members in the Holocaust and vivid memories as a youngster reading about the kidnapping and murder of aviator Charles Lindbergh’s infant son.

The tributes are pouring in as Sendak’s death comes just days after the Beastie Boys’ Adam Yauch. In that Brooklyn way, the two men were actually connected: Yauch’s film production company Oscilloscope distributed a Spike Jonze documentary about Sendak called Tell Them Anything You Want: A Portrait Of Maurice Sendak. In the film, a salty, acerbic Sendak says he loved his siblings but hated his parents growing up, and blames their various failed attempts to abort him for his childhood illnesses.

There’s lots more, about how he spent his life ashamed of being gay, how a graphic newspaper photo of the dead Lindbergh baby devastated him for years and fueled the darkness his books were known for, and how he never wanted to live to extreme old age. Sendak was also never able to enjoy his own success: “I never can satisfy some need in me to achieve something of incredible height. It puzzles me deeply and sours my life. There’s a permanent dissatisfaction.” A fascinating portrait you can watch here [UPDATE: Video has been taken down already! OK, so now you’ll have to buy the DVD].

After watching the interview, you’ll appreciate Sendak and his hairy, marauding beasts that much more. Who hasn’t been touched in some way by them? We’ll let you know when we hear of a Wild Rumpus in Sendak’s honor; the Brooklyn Book Festival this fall was already planning a special tribute. Meanwhile, here’s Brooklyn, as Sendak saw it:

This place is going to miss him.


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