Today I find myself pulled backed to this space because I have an inherent need to celebrate two authors that really made me want to write and to understand writing as both a need and an indulgence of self. In their deaths I am looking for some inspiration. They remind me how to live honestly and in the inspiration I also find great great sorrow, because Mr. Sendak had it right when he said that when people leave you, you love them even more.
I’ve been writing for a long time, first it was a smattering of poetry, which I now find painful to read. I am technically published though. I would sit studiously at my parents electric typewriter, willing inspiration to come and when it didn’t, I would take a shower and come back wrapped in just a towel, rivulets of water still running down my legs, hair sticking the the side of my neck and type until all the words were out and my hair was mostly dry. I still get my very best ideas in the shower even though my current projects are much more expansive.
While we were in Madrid I received news that Maurice Sendak had passed away. I sulked, I sat in a churro shop dipping amazing crisp fried bread into chocolate sauce feeling like a little piece of me was gone. Maurice Sendak’s works, two in particular, are woven into the blanket of my childhood and my sense of self, even now as an adult. The first, was surprisingly not Where the Wild Things Are, it was Chicken Soup with Rice, which a book full of poems about the months of the year in regards to soup. The magic of this book to me was not the subject matter, to be honest, I am really not a soup person. It was the writing, the idea of an idea and the challenge of it. To create something whimsical. That was what I took from that as a kid. My own copy didn’t survive through the childhood of myself and my brother, the pages and binding so tattered that eventually it just ceased to be, turned to dust by the love of two adoring children. Harper’s copy is already bought and put away, ready for her second birthday next month.
The second Sendak book to steal my heart was unsurprisingly Where the Wild Things Are . I adored it as a child, I adored it as an English major, and I continue to fall in love with in on so many levels as I get older and find new applications; two recent examples would be motherhood and future librarianship. As a child, I was drawn to Max because he’s sort of a brat and I’m sort of a brat. He is a wild thing, he is impulsive and disruptive and if I had to pick a character that I identified with, I would be hard pressed to find one more suitable than Max. Mostly I think, it taught me that books could be more than just books, they could be places and people like me who weren’t perfect but who were also redeemable and had characteristics to be proud of. I don’t think anyone could truthfully say that little Max in not brave or adventurous anymore than I could say he is well-behaved. I felt like if this book existed, someone understood that sometimes being a kid is just as hard as being an adult. You deal with all the same things, life, death, loss, loneliness, divorce, disappointment but without the freedom that comes with adulthood. For once, someone was looking at little five year old me and seeing me as a complex person with real emotions, real desires and real experiences, without treating me like I was an asshole for responding in ways I felt were appropriate. Now, as an adult and a mom with my own little often Maxesque baby, I find myself clinging to this book in new ways. It goes without saying that Max is still my spirit animal even after all these years.
The literary world lost another amazing and active contributor as it said goodbye to Ray Bradbury, who is most famous for his novel, Fahrenheit 451. I was surprised by the news, even though I was aware that Mr. Bradbury has been gracing this Earth for many years. I can’t make such a love struck post about Sendak without also expressing some of my undying adoration for Bradbury. I read this formidable book in high school and even though I went to a Roman Catholic high school which was fraught with every type of possible censorship, from the ugly red and black uniforms we were forced to wear to my World History teaching having to stand in front of the television during Schindler’s List when any scene that contained any sort of nudity came on, the idea of burning books still seemed legitimately crazy to me (and it still does). I was enamored with Guy Montag (funny how I went on to marry a Guy of my own). That novel made me fall even more in love with books. Since then I have drank in Dandelion Wine, awed at The Illustrated Man and found familiarity in The Martian Chronicles.
Maybe just as important to me as his literature was the way he lived his life. Wonder is something that can’t really be taught, we are all born with it. When we are babies, everything is fascinating. Pulling the socks from our feet, the way splashing in a puddle makes the water ripple even after we are still, the smell of the spot where our mother’s neck meets her chest all bring us immense joy. Everything is amazing but as we get older, we get desensitized. We stop seeing things for just how amazing they are.Sit and think about the fact that your heart beats every minute of every day! I’m not saying that we should all sit around wondering at our feet, but if Mr. Bradbury lived for anything it was the idea that the world is full of really amazing things, really beautiful, truly awesome things and most of the time we walk right by or even worse step on them because we have somewhere to be.So much so that when we look back there is a great possibility that all we will remember are thousands of hasty steps. Maybe we all just need to start looking at the world more like Ray Bradbury “Stuff your eyes with wonder, live as if you’d drop dead in ten seconds. See the world. It’s more fantastic than any dream made or paid for in factories.”