“We’re grown-ups; we know better, but we’re afraid.” – Maurice Sendak


Fantastic three-way interview with 81-year-old Maurice Sendak, Dave Eggers and Spike Jonze. Must-read!

What do you say to parents who think the Wild Things film may be too scary?
Sendak: I would tell them to go to hell. That’s a question I will not tolerate.

That made me laugh out loud. I loved Sendak’s story about who the “wild things” really are, where he got the inspiration (brilliant – all good art is personal). I also loved this bit. Because he’s right. The soup needs to be hot, not warm. The fight had to be fought. He felt strongly about it, and he was right to feel strongly about it. But I love so much to get “backstage glimpses” of fights like these.

Sendak: I remember I was having fights with my editor about this book [Where the Wild Things Are].
What were the fights about?
Sendak: Well, I’ll just give you a silly example. The entire staff at the publishing house were keen on my changing the word “hot” to “warm” on the last page. Because “hot” meant “burn.”
Jonze: The soup was “still hot.”
Sendak: It was going to burn the kid. I couldn’t believe it. But it turned into a real world war, just that word, and I won.
How did you win?
Sendak: Just going at it. Just trying to convey how dopey “warm” sounded. Unemotional. Undramatic. Everything about that book is “hot.”


There will always be those (even those apparently in our corner) who want us to lower the stakes for ourselves. Who want us to soft-pedal certain things. Sometimes these people mean well, sometimes they do not. People, in general, are not comfortable being around things that will “burn” them. They mistakenly project that onto others (“children will be afraid of that which is hot …”) – not realizing that it is THEY who are uncomfortable with it. They don’t ask the question, what am I reacting to here? Who exactly am I protecting? There is the curse of being “too much”, too intense, too sensitive, and there will always be those who have a problem with that (even fellow artists). But you have to just stick to your guns, and keep moving, keep doing what you want to do, trusting that the audience will find you. That they will “get it”. And of course Sendak was vindicated by the decades-long smash success of Where the Wild Things Are, with children around the world knowing it by heart, and somehow NOT being scarred for life imagining a bowl of hot soup and how it might burn them.

But I just love Sendak’s comment:

“Everything about that book is ‘hot’.”

Definitely go read the whole thing. It’s a goldmine. Love the discussion of kids movies, bringing up Truffaut’s 400 Blows, and great conversation about Wizard of Oz too.

Nice way to start the day.

This entry was posted in Movies, writers and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to “We’re grown-ups; we know better, but we’re afraid.” – Maurice Sendak

  1. Jayne says:

    THANK YOU for linking to that post! What a treasure!!! You made my entire morning. I’ve had “Where the Wild Things Are” memorized since Mere’s kids were tiny – I can still recite it. And Maurice Sendak – “I would tell them to go to hell.” He’s fabulous. I think I’ll go read it all again now. What a feast!!

  2. Jayne says:

    And finding out who the Wild Things were based on – that was priceless. I found myself nodding and saying “oh!” and smiling when I read that. Good thing it’s just me and the cats right now.

  3. Dave E. says:

    Great interview, I especially liked the conversation around The Wizard of Oz…and Oompa-Loompa fear right off the bat, hahaha.

    I had older relatives like the ones Sendak described who mostly spoke German and were hard to understand. I completely get how his could have inspired him, because as a child I was kind of afraid of mine.

  4. Kerry says:

    “we were really in the room together for eight hours a day, and writing for at least 20 minutes of that. ”


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.