Once again, I tripped over an episode of mock conservative Stephen Cobert’s show, and low and behold, he’s interviewing the famous children’s writer and illustrator–Maurice Sendak. If you’ve not seen Colbert–think of a fake sincere smart aleck whose comebacks are fast and furious, and usually hilarious. I find it hard to believe in this day of TV internet, iphones etc, that Sendak doesn’t know Colbert’s shtick, but, I honestly think he believed Colbert’s questions were for real. He certainly responded as if so, and he responded as an old curmudgeonly man, who doesn’t really warm the cudgels of adults hearts, let alone children’s. As a matter of fact. Sendak pretty much admitted he has no interest in kids whatsoever–but neither does he crave adult companionship. He also made a surprise statement–at least to me–that he doesn’t write ‘books for children’ but just writes books, and the implication was that others tagged them as kids books.
Colbert pointed out how it seems as though every interviewer asks questions about Where The Wild Things Are. After Sendak groaned and said yes, that was true, Colbert went on–“So, tell me about Where the Wild Things Are.” And Sendak just didn’t get it–the joke. Colbert alluded to a section where he claimed the wild things were having sex, and Sendak agreed wholeheartedly, describing what he was implying in the text. I must say I was kind of jolted here. I hadn’t put sex together with the book, but maybe I was missing major story-lines! The next point Colbert brought up, was the censorship of In The Night Kitchen, asking Sendak, why he thought so many places banned the book. Sendak knew exactly why–because the boy is nude and his private part drawn clearly within the illustrations, and that’s a no no. Colbert cut out all the private part areas, including behinds, and put them in plastic bag, to save the children from having to gaze upon such depravity. Sendak wasn’t impressed, actually, I believe he thinks Colbert is a nut job, for real.
The question as to why the boy is nude, why not just give him pants to begin with, Sendak snaps out that the boy is dreaming–and little boys dream sometimes in the nude. “Haven’t you ever dreamed in the nude?” he asks Colbert. I believe Colbert claimed he was always wearing pants.
Personally, I’m not interested in that mystery, my question is why are there TWO Oliver Hardys as chefs? Why even one, for that matter? I’ve always been fascinated by his decision to put a Hardy lookalike in the story, without a hint of a reason why. Creative license, no doubt.
I’ve long been a fan of Sendak, and yet know very little about him personally. So I was caught off guard when he explained to Colbert that he wasn’t attracted to the female imagery Colbert was throwing out at him, because he was gay. Colbert, being Colbert, straight shame shamefacedly asked, “then why are you allowed to write children’s books.” I believe that gave Sendak pause, maybe a bit of mind boggling was going on.