Illustrator and author Maurice Sendak died today at the age of 83 near his Connecticut home, The New York Times first reported. Sendak’s incomparable books—Where the Wild Things Are, In the Night Kitchen, Chicken Soup with Rice, and, most recently Bumble-Ardy, among many others—presented a melancholy, unsettling view of childhood—and adulthood—in which bad things happen to fine people for no real reason. “No one has been more uncompromising, more idiosyncratic, and more in touch with the unhinged and chiaroscuro subconscious of a child,” Dave Eggers, who wrote the screenplay for the 2009 movie adaptation of 1963’s Where the Wild Things Are, wrote in his August 2011 Vanity Fair interview with Sendak. Sendak’s focus was often humanity and the terrible, no good, very bad randomness of the universe.
The New York Times reports in a lovely obituary that the Brooklyn-born Sendak, was raised “in a world of looming terrors”:
[T]he Depression; the war; the Holocaust, in which many of his European relatives perished; the seemingly infinite vulnerability of children to danger. The kidnapping of the Lindbergh baby in 1932 he experienced as a personal torment: if that fair-haired, blue-eyed princeling could not be kept safe, what certain peril lay in store for him, little Murray Sendak, in his humble apartment in Bensonhurst?
Writing a Times book review in 2009, Vanity Fair deputy editor Bruce Handy described the Caldecott-winning Where the Wild Things Are as “an empowering, psychologically astute parable about a child learning that his anger, while sometimes overwhelming and scary, can be safely expressed and eventually conquered.” Grief, too.