Maurice Sendak, author of Where The Wild Things Are, passed away last week. His death has prompted our Year of the Novel blogger, Caro, to reflect on her first literary love and some of the characters who have followed…
Since Maurice Sendak passed away last week, the media has been awash with heartfelt tributes to the author. It’s proof enough (for me, anyway) that stories and characters are robust enough to inhabit our collective imagination, long after the pages are turned.
Max was my first love – I was only six at the time, so the age difference wasn’t creepy. When I first read Where the Wild Things Are, I thought his wolf suit was cool and the way he faced up to the monsters was brave. He made a majestic King, and even when it all went wrong for him, I knew he didn’t mean the things he said. I looked into the pages, and fell in love – the first of many literary crushes. Max was honest and impulsive and a little melancholy. Actually, if I had to have a ‘type’, that’s probably still it.
Since then, there have been many other literary-loves. You’d have to have a heart of stone not to feel at least a flutter for Mr Darcy, but I like my leading men a little less clean-cut. As a teenager, I would have dated Holden Caulfield, even though I would have known from the start it was going to end badly, and there’s something about Gatsby that sweeps me off my feet every time. I’d marry Atticus Finch any day of the week, and Quick Lamb (from Cloudstreet) breaks my heart over and over. There’s something about Levi, from Annna Karenina, and Czech comic artist Joe Kavalier (from The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay). Heck, I’d even have a dalliance with Sherlock Holmes, though I suspect he wouldn’t take me!
In 2006, Sendak ruined my mental picture of Max, when he told The New Yorker he would be a grown man by now, and much less of a catch:
“My God, Max would be what now, forty-eight? He’s still unmarried, he’s living in Brooklyn. He’s a computer maven. He’s totally ungifted. He wears a wolf suit when he’s at home with his mother!”
But in my mind, he’s just a lost little boy I can’t help admiring – and the outpouring of affection for the book, the character, and the author suggests I’m not the only one with a place in my heart for Max.
I don’t know what it takes to create a character people love – and miss – years after reading. But I do know that getting swept up in the magic of other people’s characters can’t be a bad start.
RIP Maurice Sendak, and thank you for Max.