Maurice Sendak, King of All Wild Things: A Retrospective Rumpus of Links

"And when he came to the place where the wild things are..."

UPDATE: Fresh Air has released a 45-minute memorial compilation of Terry Gross's interviews with Maurice Sendak from 1986-2011. It's fascinating to hear how his voice grows pleasantly gruff with age. (The compilation includes material described in the September 2011 podcast listed below.)

"I am in love with the world"
The great thing about Maurice Sendak, apart from his immortal opus and his gleeful bicuspids, is that he never became pompous or preening or patronizing. His late interviews are seminars in how to live impishly and passionately up until the last minute, and though I was sad to learn of Sendak's death on May 7, 2012, when I re-listened to his September 2011 Fresh Air interview with Terry Gross, I was consoled by Sendak's satisfaction with his own life ("I'm happy," "It is a blessing to get old. It is a blessing to find the time to do the things, to take the time to read the books, to listen to the music,") and his bracing acceptance of death ("Oh God, there are so many beautiful things in the world which I will have to leave when I die, but I'm ready, I'm ready, I'm ready.")

Sendak's last Fresh Air interview is perhaps not the interview to start with, because it is lachrymose with Sendak's grief over the deaths of people he's loved, so I would save it for last. Here is a suggested order of listening for my top Sendak audio and visual interviews (not all are available on podcast):

TateShots on Sendak's Illustrious Inspirations (December 2011)
In this 5-minute video interview from the UK's Tate museum Sendak talks about the inspirations for his art, including William Blake, Philip Otto Runge and other German Romantic painters. It shows Sendak's bookshelves and framed prints and his dog, Herman (named after Melville).
Downloadable iTunes link for the TateShots interview with Maurice Sendak.

Bill Moyers Uncovers the Genesis of Where The Wild Things Are (2004)
This 17-minute video interview with Bill Moyers on PBS's "Now" program is one of the best on the familial inspirations and drawing-limitation origins of Sendak's Where the Wild Things Are, plus his attitudes about children's literature (which Moyers suggests is "like fighting guerrilla warfare"), Sendak's collaboration with über-editor Ursula Nordstrom, and the childhood fears instilled by the Lindbergh baby abduction.

Marker-Sniffing à Deux on the The Colbert Report (2011)
Most everyone I know has already seen these. A pair of delightfully acerbic, giddy and impish video interviews, conducted at Sendak's home in Connecticut, replete with middle school shenanigans. The universe is lucky Colbert filmed these when he did.
Online page for "Grim Colberty Tales with Maurice Sendak Part 1" (7 1/2 minutes)

Sendak's Last Fresh Air Appearance (September 2011)
Ostensibly scheduled to promote the release of Sendak's Bumble-ardy, this 18-minute interview with Terry Gross quickly deepens into a discussion of life, lost friends and lovers, the beauty of the world, Sendak's philosophical attitude toward death. It concludes with his heartfelt benediction for Gross: "Live your life, live your life, live your life."


Toni Morrison on Beloved (c. 2009)

"So he raced from dogwood to blossoming peach."

In 2009 Toni Morrison visited the BBC's World Book Club to discuss her Pulitzer-Prizewinning masterpiece Beloved with host Harriet Gilbert and an international group of fans. The BBC has re-podcasted the recording of Morrison's appearance in honor of the 25th anniversary of Beloved's publication. The Book Club members' questions are fine, but the author is sublime, despite having arrived at London's South Bank Arts Center after a red-eye transatlantic flight. Morrison is genial, generous and gracious with her interlocutors, one of whom is only nine years old.

The Origins of Beloved
Morrison talks about the nonfiction incident that germinated the unforgettable and signifying act of Beloved, as well as the limited usefulness of anger as muse and her narrative design for the novel. To put the difficulty of writing into perspective Morrison tells the story of her grandmother leaving Alabama for the North with six children and 30 dollars and no set plan for what to do when she arrived. Morrison also reads three passages from Beloved, including the devastating section in which Sethe addresses the girl whom she takes to be her daughter (at Minute 35)--a gorgeous piece of audio.

The podcast lasts just over 50 minutes, and can be listened to online at the BBC's World Book Club archive, and also downloaded from the BBC's World Book Club iTunes feed here (this link may expire).