Sendak on Blake

I have never been a fan of Maurice Sendak.  I was eight when Where the Wild Things Are was published, but I do not think I ever heard of it or Sendak until I was in college.  I am not sure I have ever read any Sendak, but I know I have at least paged through Wild Things and looked at the pictures (the only way to read a book, right?).  The pictures never did anything for me. Clips from the movie do nothing to make me want to see it.

Over the past year, I have come to understand that Mr. Sendak, whatever his talents as a writer, is quite a character.  There is a wonderful interview with NPR’s Terry Gross on Fresh Air.

Now I notice this bit of video on YouTube in which he says something that makes me feel better about myself.  At just around the 1:54 mark, he discusses the poet William Blake.  He has a whole shelf devoted to Blake and has read a lot of and about Blake.  He loves Blake, especially as an illustrator (which makes sense).  But the part I love is

I don’t understand him. I still can’t read through one of his illuminated ma…I can’t. I don’t know what the hell he’s talking about.

I have tried reading Blake on many occasions, but I have never gotten very far.  I do not understand him.  It is good to know that it is not just me.

I have, as I have aged, begun to sense that much poetry does not yield understanding without repeated reading.  But who wants to read without understanding?  I suppose that is what the rhythm and language is for, to provide pleasure while waiting for understanding.  I just made that up, but I can’t believe that (having majored in English Lit) I have never been told it.

At some point I plan to read Blake again.  And I will read him aloud and will plow through even when I’m lost.

Maybe that plan should apply to reading Sendak…..

3 thoughts on “Sendak on Blake”

  1. Spoilers!

    Irritated because the story is about a bratty little boy who gets sent to his room without dinner, has a wild imaginative episode, and then gets his dinner served to him in his room anyway. The story ends with him giving a very knowing grimace to the reader which says nothing but “I got away with it.”

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