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‘I don’t set out to make children happy’: RIP Maurice Sendak

That he was in his 84th year doesn’t soften the blow of Maurice Sendak’s death of complications from a stroke earlier this week. The beloved author and artist of Where The Wild Things Are and In The Night Kitchen remained productive until the end, publishing Bumble-Ardy, his 18th book, a mere eight months ago.

His brilliance was in full flower, too, on his two-part appearance earlier this year on the satirical American late night show The Colbert Report. It’s a programme that’s difficult to see in the UK. Its sister show, The Daily Show With Jon Stewart, screens on cable channel Comedy Central, but Colbert is nowhere to be found, and any attempt to view videos on its official American site from outside the USA is met with a stern ‘content not available in your country’ message (although there are ways round that, but you didn’t hear it from us.)

In Sendak’s spirit of telling you things you need to hear, then, we’ve compiled some of the high points from the great man’s appearance, that you might realise just why he’ll be so sorely missed, and maybe go about your day being a better person than had you not read them. And, if you feel like sticking it to the man and finding that way around the regional blocking, here are the interviews themselves. First though, here’s a bonus video of his view on e-books. Godspeed, sir.



– ‘There is something in this country that is so opposed to understanding the complexity of children. It’s quite amazing.’

– ‘Newt Gingrich is an idiot of great renown, I’ll give him that. There is something so hopelessly gross and vile about him that it’s hard to take him seriously, so let’s not take him seriously.’

– ‘I don’t write for children […] I write, and somebody says “that’s for children.” I don’t set out to make children happy, or make life better for them, or easier for them.’

– ‘I like [children] as few and far between as I do adults. Maybe a bit more, because I really don’t like adults at all, frankly.’

– On why he wouldn’t write a sequel to Where The Wild Things Are: ‘Because that is the most boring thing imaginable.’

– On Colbert’s own mooted Wild Things sequel: ‘It is so bad that not only will it sell, it will make pots and pots of money for you.’

– ‘It is a miracle that I have lived this long without having destroyed a person. I still have a little bit of time.’

– Colbert: ‘What do you think of the current state of children’s literature?’

Sendak: ‘Abysmal.

Colbert: ‘There’s so much of it though.’

Sendak: ‘That’s what makes it abysmal.’

– On the central flaw of If You Give A Mouse A Cookie: ‘you should open the door and say “get the hell out of my house.”‘

– To Colbert, on what it takes for a celebrity to write a popular children’s book: ‘you’ve started already by being an idiot. That is the very first demand.’

– ‘Most books for children are very bad.’

– Sendak’s blurb for Colbert’s children’s book: ‘The sad thing is I like it.’

– ‘All you need to do is get a popular illustrator who has a horrible sense of design, no taste for type, nothing about what the aesthetics of what a picture book could look like, and you will probably make a lot of money.’

– On Colbert’s illustrative efforts: ‘I would leave it alone, because it has a kind of delicacy and irrationality and terrible quality of ordinariness.’

Chris Ward

Chris Ward

Chris Ward writes and says things about books and music and films and what have you, even when no one is reading or listening.
He was chief hack and music editor of webzine Brazen from 2006 to 2010, and hosted Left of the Dial on Subcity Radio from 2008 to 2011.
He can be heard semi-regularly on the podcast of Scottish cultural blog Scots Whay Hae ('20th best website in Scotland!' - The List), and in 2011 founded Seen Your Video, a film and music podcast and blog based in Glasgow. He has a Masters degree in Scottish Literature from the University of Glasgow that will never have any practical application. You are on a hiding to nothing if you follow him on Twitter expecting any kind of hot publishing scoop.


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