Francoise Mouly, art editor at the New Yorker and editor/compiler of the new book, Blown Covers, featuring art that never made the cover, has posted this strip, a 1993 collaboration between her husband, Art Spiegelman, and Maurice Sendak, who died yesterday.
You can click on the picture for a larger version, and then click here to go to her blog and read the second part of their conversation.
Sendak is somewhere between the two, gently inviting you to hear a story and simultaneously flashing something extraordinary in your face.
Another thing I have said before is that, before I could read, I used to pore through my parents' Barnaby collection, looking at the little man with wings who came through the window to take a boy much like myself on adventures.
At that period of my life, we also had a copy of "A Hole Is To Dig," and Sendak's illustrations had a similar effect. I didn't have to be able to read the book. It didn't matter.
This Chagall-like ability to evoke, and induce, dreams puts Sendak's art on a level that I don't think you can reach by conscious effort. I'm sure Carlos Santana knows what note he wants to play next, but you can't simply choose to play guitar the way he does.
Same thing with art. You start with something nobody else has, and work from there.
I kind of wish I hadn't been so old when "In The Night Kitchen" came out, but, on the other hand, it was a great privilege to read it to my own boys before they could read the words, and then leave it where they could get it and pore through those pictures. Which they did.
In recent years, Sendak was interviewed with some frequency, and it was interesting to meet the man behind the dreams, but I have to say it didn't change how I felt about any of his books.
What it did, however, was to validate my instincts, and I think the instincts of every small child who has seen, not just the pictures, but the spirit in his work.
As in the Alice books, not every dream is entirely pleasant, and there are some odd things tucked into the corners of dreams, and sometimes right out there in the open. Kids know that, but it's not often that someone from the adult world acknowledges it.
And it's okay for Max to be angry and to say rude things and get sent to his room and act out his fury and then come back and be over it. Note that, when he sails back, he doesn't apologize and he doesn't feel any particular remorse for having been angry.
Sometimes you're pissed off. There aren't many grownups who seem to remember and understand that.
This one did, bless his heart.
Kid-lit, particularly that written for the very small, is full of adults pretending to remember, or riffing like a smirking, condescending Art Linkletter off the cute things a kid did. Or else they're laying out earnest moral lessons personified by wandering baby animals.
As Sendak repeatedly said, however, he never wrote any kids' books.
Which is the key to the greatness of his kids' books.
Here, in two parts, is a hilarious, wonderful, insightful conversation he had with Stephen Colbert.