Touched by Sendak

A friend of mine blogged about Maurice Sendak coming out in a NYT article, but what I find more profound in this interview than his sexuality, is his own questioning of his art. A man who has been revered by so many and has certainly influenced modern children’s literature, it would certainly be sort of a “no-brainer” that he has cemented himself within the literary and artistic framework of our time.

Instead, he is questioning where he is an “artist” or “illlustrator” and I also wonder why it would be back to be just an illustrator…but I think that is a debate for another time…I think it is interesting that even when a colleague and friend Tony Kushner compliments him, he says, “Mr. Sendak protested, “But Tony is my friend.”” Meaning, “Of course friends are going to say your wonderful..doesn’t mean that you are.” But is that so bad, to be respected by your peers?

What really moved me, were two things. One, that at 80 years old, Sendak is thinking about his mortality and what he will leave behind. Will his work go unfinished? This resonated because it is one of the things I considered when I returned to my pen. I was doing a meditation on my own mortality and was asked if I had a year to live, what would I do? The answer was simple…write. And so I have begun this process with what seems to be the same insecurities that haunt Sendak. It is unexpected for me to see this in someone who has inspired me over the course of my life. I bring out his poems and books when I feel sad. I love his humour and his wisdom.

Two, when he says that he respects authors like Melville, and Keats for their “ability to be private, the ability to be alone, the ability to follow some spiritual course not written down by anybody.” Considering I am writing a blog, I am not that private, but I like that idea. I like the idea of being comfortable with ones own thoughts and ones own company so that they can be quiet enough to listen. I also like what he says about “spiritual course not written down by anyone,” because I think that is what I have been trying to do my whole life.

A writer’s life means listening for the right words to come to you. Whereever that comes from. A voice within speaks. And whatever it is we do write, may I get to a point where I am comfortable with whatever it is that I bring to this world. Because, really, it is all I can do.

I just hope that Sendak realizes how much he has touched the past two generations of children and that his work will be part of a canon of literature that shows the wonders of the imagination.


About Melanie J. Fishbane

My novel, MAUD: A Novel Inspired by the Life of L.M. Montgomery was published in 2017 through Penguin Random House on April 25, 2017. I hold an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from the Vermont College of Fine Arts. Here I talk about my writing process, things I love, and creative people who inspire me.
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