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In anticipation of next month’s film version of Where the Wild Things Are, a rather overwrought essay in Paste Magazine traces the trajectory of the children’s classic from Maurice Sendak’s anxious childhood, though his famous book, to the book’s adaptation by Spike Jonze and Dave Eggers. And it finds profounndly Jewish roots to the classic children’s story. “The little Jewish boy, the yingl, lies nervously awake in the dark,” Charles McNair writes. “It’s September 1939. He’s barely 11.” In McNair’s account, Sendak is a sickly child who “only watches the stickball games in the Brooklyn streets” and who’s “already gay, hardwired, the secret perhaps not even known to him yet, but always there, a slow fuse burning toward puberty. School is a daily trip to gehenem, to hell.” Relief comes in the Jewish folktales and stories from the Torah that Sendak’s father tells him, and which he illustrates. Those stories later inform Wild Things, in which the Things in question “uncannily resemble those uncles and aunts and grans that stomp through the crowded house on holidays”; Max, meanwhile has “a pure id, as deep and famished as Philip Roth’s.” This is all a little much, but here’s hoping that McNair is right about one thing: if the movie manages to please both hipster and family audiences, it could be “a new E.T., blurring the line between child and adult entertainment.”

The Call of the Wild Things [Paste Magazine]





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