Friday, October 23, 2009

some like it hot

He was more dangerous. He did things to Minnie that were not nice. I think what happened was that he became so popular – this is my own theory – they gave his cruelty and his toughness to Donald Duck. And they made Mickey a fat nothing. He's too important for products. They want him to be placid and nice and adorable. He turned into a schmaltzer. I despised him after a point.

Where the Wild Things Are author Maurice Sendak commenting on the changes that came to Mickey Mouse over time in Tuesday's Guardian.

In the article, when he's not telling "parents worried by Wild Things to 'go to hell'", he's recounting how the monsters in his classic children's book were based on relatives who came to his house when he was a child. Immigrants who spoke little English:

They grabbed you and twisted your face, and they thought that was an affectionate thing to do. And I knew that my mother's cooking was pretty terrible, and it also took forever, and there was every possibility that they would eat me, or my sister or my brother. We really had a wicked fantasy that they were capable of that. We couldn't taste any worse than what she was preparing. So that's who the Wild Things are. They're foreigners, lost in America, without a language. And children who are petrified of them, and don't understand that these gestures, these twistings of flesh, are meant to be affectionate.

It's a brief crotchety frightfully endearing piece -- especially the part about how he and his editor battled over whether or not to say that Max's dinner was "still hot" -- as opposed to "warm" -- and less likely to burn a little boy. He won the battle by conveying: "how dopey 'warm' sounded. Unemotional. Undramatic. Everything about that book is 'hot'."

Mr. Sendak, I adore you.

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