30 Day Book Challenge: Day Twenty-one

Favorite picture book from childhood: Where the Wild Things Are – Maurice Sendak

Fuck Curious George, fuck the Bernstein Bears, fuck Where’s Waldo, fuck all that shit; I’m all about them monsters, that’s what’s good. I love Where the Wild Things Are because it explores a side of children that is rarely given its due: that kids (and people) can be nasty little bastards with vicious temperaments and imaginations. More than that, in the end I think the story is about overcoming solipsism.

The story is simple enough. Max throws a tantrum and is sent to his room without supper. In his room, he goes on an “imaginary” adventure and befriends a group of monsters. However, he eventually becomes lonely and decides to return home, and finds a hot supper waiting for him. The movie takes extensive liberties – mostly because a strict adaptation would be about 20 minutes – but the basic form is the same.

I say “imaginary” because it’s only implied that it’s imaginary; to Max he is actually going to this place. I think the best kind of kids’ stories are the magical realist ones, where fantasy and reality weave in and out of each other without trying to rationalize anything.

Shockingly enough, Where the Wild Things Are was poorly received when it was first released and was even banned in some instances. Given the subject matter, it’s obvious parents and adults will overreact and misunderstand the text. Adults are always underestimating kids. Such is life. But kids are little bastards, and that’s why I love them, though some would rather ignore it.

In the movie, the most compelling character is Carol, voiced by James Gandolfini, a favorite of mine. Carol is a foil to Max. Like Max, Carol has an incredible imagination in which he constructs a better world, where everyone is together, where everything you want to happen happens, and nothing changes. Though Carol’s heart is in the right place, he, like all who have massive imaginations, struggles with solipsism. His perfect world is never able to manifest itself in the real world. Carol grows frustrated and lashes out at the people he cares about. Max sees this himself and is alienated. He regrets how he treated his mother and decides to return to the real world.

This is the toughest lesson we have to learn as we grow up. The world will always resist our expectations and will never conform to any order we try to impose upon it. People are especially true of this. The people we love will always frustrate, infuriate, disappoint, and hurt us. But that’s the whole point. We can never recreate in our minds the myriad perfections and imperfections that in totality make us love the people we love.

And that’s some real talk, son.



p.s. if anyone can find me a link to this acoustic version of “Wake Up” you’ll be my friend forever.

~ by braddunne on August 15, 2011.

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