African-American Music Appreciation
|Maurice Sendak b. 1928 – U.S. writer and illustrator of children’s books – Where The Wild Things Are (1963)|
Sendak shakes his head beneath the low-beamed ceiling, in this room full of art and old rugs. “I can’t believe I’ve turned into a typical old man. I can’t believe it.” He smiles and his face transforms. “I was young just minutes ago.”
To his millions of readers, of course, Sendak will always be young, a proxy for Max in Where the Wild Things Are, who runs away from his mother’s anger into the consoling realm of his own imagination. There are monsters in there, but Max faces them down before returning to his mother for reconciliation and dinner. Sendak’s own exile took rather longer to resolve. The monsters from Wild Things were based on his own relatives. They would visit his house in Brooklyn when he was growing up (“All crazy – crazy faces and wild eyes”) and pinch his cheeks until they were red. Looking back, he sees how desperate they all were, these first-generation immigrants from Poland, with no English, no education and, although they didn’t know it in 1930, a family back home facing extinction in the concentration camps. At the time, all he saw was grotesques.
That included his parents. If he had come from a happy home, says Sendak, he would never have become an artist, at least not the kind of artist he is. Sendak’s picture books acknowledge the terrors of childhood, how vicious and lonely it can be. In his latest book, Bumble-Ardy, the hero is a piglet who loses his neglectful parents to a slicing machine on the first page and is left in the care of an aunt. When Bumble turns nine, she throws him his first ever birthday party and, in the manner of most Sendak stories, things take a dark turn: older pigs gatecrash and, in a kind of porcine burlesque, wreck the place. The pictures are feverish and transporting – and, although the book ends in forgiveness and a hug between aunt and nephew, the sense of precariousness around Bumble remains. “I refuse to lie to children,” says Sendak. “I refuse to cater to the bullshit of innocence.”
Read Sendak’s 2012 obituary here
Mr. Sendak upended the staid, centuries-old tradition of American children’s literature, in which young heroes and heroines were typically well scrubbed and even better behaved; nothing really bad ever happened for very long; and everything was tied up at the end in a neat, moralistic bow.
Mr. Sendak’s characters, by contrast, are headstrong, bossy, even obnoxious. (In “Pierre,” “I don’t care!” is the response of the small eponymous hero to absolutely everything.) His pictures are often unsettling. His plots are fraught with rupture: children are kidnapped, parents disappear, a dog lights out from her comfortable home.
His visual style could range from intricately crosshatched scenes that recalled 19th-century prints to airy watercolors reminiscent of Chagall to bold, bulbous figures inspired by the comic books he loved all his life, with outsize feet that the page could scarcely contain.
Born June 10
Benjamin Millepied (b. 1977) – French dancer, choreographer – Black Swan (2010) (choreographer)
Born June 11
Born June 12
|Anis Mojgani b. 1977 – U.S. poet|
Read about Anis Mojgani here
Anis Mojgani TEDTalk “Equal Parts Science and Magic”
Listen to Mojgani perform “Four Stars”
… I stuck my hand out there. The sun buzzed loudly. Nothing could bite me. A caterpillar did. I had climbed its tree, so it kissed me with its back…
Born June 13
Born June 14
Born June 15
Born June 16