Brain Pickings

Grim Colberty Tales: Maurice Sendak’s Last Video Appearance


“I don’t write for children. I write — and somebody says, ‘That’s for children!'”

The world is a little dimmer this week at the news that Maurice Sendak has died at the age of 83, he who gave us such cultural treasures as Where The Wild Things Are and such hidden gems as these little-known Velveteen Rabbit illustrations. It is perhaps some kind of cosmic joke that this week also marks the release of Stephen Colbert’s first children’s book, I Am A Pole (And So Can You!), which features possibly the best book blurb of all time, by none other than Sendak himself:

The sad thing is, I like it.

In this two-part interview titled Grim Colberty Tales with Maurice Sendak, recorded in January 2012, Sendak makes his last known video appearance and banters with Colbert, lucid and wryly witty as ever, about everything from the state of children’s literature today to the free market to being gay.

COLBERT: Why do you write for children?

SENDAK: I don’t write for children. I write — and somebody says, ‘That’s for children!’ I didn’t set out to make children happy or make life better for them, or easier for them.

COLBERT: Do you like them?

SENDAK: I like them as few and far between as I do adults — maybe a bit more, because I really don’t like adults at all.

Maurice Sendak (left) and Stephen Colbert draw a pole. Sendak's drawing, true to his signature wit, depicts a Polish woman holding a pole.

In the second part, Colbert reads from I Am A Pole (And So Can You!) and gets a drawing lesson from Sendak.

COLBERT: What does it take for a celebrity to make a successful (children’s) book, what do I gotta do?

SENDAK: You’ve started already by being an idiot. That is the very first demand.

Top photo via MSNBC

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