Maurice Sendak Interview on NPR, a Jerk who Jerks Tears

28 Sep

I don’t know whether to chalk up the unusually high caliber of this author interview to a rapport between the interviewee/interviewer that clearly predates the interview, or to the freedom to speak ones mind that is a hallmark of advancing age. Whatever the reason, what results is a rare gem: an interview with an author I actually enjoyed hearing. Although I usually toss kudos freely to NPR, the online stream I listen to most, bar none, when it comes to their interviews of authors, I usually have to set my headphones down and check in occasionally to hear if it’s over yet. The authors often come across as maudlin or self-congratulatory. Sometimes they’ll get a writer who puts on airs of humility, but the air is thin, and the tone practiced. It’s not that I need to like the writer. I don’t. And maybe that’s the problem I have with those sorts of interviews. I don’t know that they serve much purpose. There aren’t regular interviews of visual artists and, I believe, for good reason. The work should speak for itself. I’d rather, in fact, hear a reader’s review of the work and/or hear actors or others read parts of the work than have the author taking up precious airtime answering a question that’s been posed by a multitude of interviewers already. I run from these interviews, too, because I often think I’ll like the work but not the author or the interview, and don’t want to be swayed against buying the book. I don’t want to prejudice the pages that, in the end, have nothing to do with the interview. So, usually I don’t listen or cut it off after the first minute or two.

This one, however, kept me listening … maybe because Maurice Sendak is a hero of kids’ literature. Maybe because the only work of his I know well has so few words that I was affording him a few more. Likely, though, it’s that he’s old and I knew nothing of his race, orientation, history, or inspiration, and was pretty sure I wouldn’t find it in the pages of This Pig Wants to Party. From what Maurice and Fresh Air’s Terry Gross taught me, though, I may have been wrong. After hearing this interview, I will be buying the book and reading it like I’m back in English Lit.

Here, I invite you to listen to the interview. It presents an author who is refreshingly frank, sometimes annoying, completely misaligned with most of my ideals but – more importantly – is genuine. Ladies and gentleman, Maurice Sendak, the legend, and Fresh Air’s Terry Gross, who finally gave me an interview to trust.

I haven’t read this children’s book (This Pig Wants to Party) that is the subject of the interview but if anyone has and can make a recommendation, speak now or forever hold your peas.


One Response to “Maurice Sendak Interview on NPR, a Jerk who Jerks Tears”

  1. Steven Myers September 28, 2011 at 8:08 pm #

    Yeh, he doesn’t sound the least bit self-congratulatory. It’s maybe too bad that he takes this “I don’t care attitude” so late in his life, but then again, it maybe shapes his thoughts and books. The title, “This Pig Wants to Party” seems to jive with what he said about men being selfish pigs and in his case, an old pig who finally does whatever the hell he wants.
    But I’ve never read the book.
    Like you say, he is genuine. Hard to argue with that.

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