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…..