Today in “Things We Didn’t Know We Needed But Probably Don’t Deserve”: Even though he’s been dead for five years, we’re getting a new picture book from the king of weird children’s literature, Maurice Sendak.
The book, Publisher’s Weekly has announced, will have the extremely Sendak-y title of Presto and Zesto in Limboland. And Limboland is where the book has been sitting for nearly 30 years; the project was originally sidelined in 1990 because Sendak became “obsessed” with Brundibar, the collaboration with Tony Kushner about the children’s opera performed in Terezin as an act of subversion against the Nazis.
But now, the manuscript of the abandoned project has turned up amongst Sendak’s papers, illustrations included.
The original inspiration for the surreal adventure is, as only Sendak could choose, a 1927 musical composition by Leoš Janáček’s based on absurd Czech nursery rhymes entitled Rikadla. One part involves two sugar beets getting married. Don’t worry too much about it.
The sample art from the book has a giant Sendiakian monster, and also features a child with his butt hanging out, because far be it from Maurice to back down from an opportunity to make people angry with that sort of thing (see: In the Night Kitchen).
The book has a co-author, Arthur Yorinks, a great writer in his own right, and Sendak’s friend and collaborator on other books and projects. Why didn’t Yorinks ask Sendak scholars to search for the manuscript? Well, he forgot it existed. But he remembers now, and has been able to go back over the text of the lost book for the two of them. In fact, the titular Presto and Zesto come from Yorinks and Sendak’s nicknames for one another, and the narrative thread of book is more or less the result of the two of them joking back and forth.
HarperCollins should publish the book in the fall of next year.
While you wait, enjoy this iconic interview with Stephen Colbert, where Sendak is a curmudgeonly delight (Sample quote: “I hate those ebooks. They can not be the future. They may well be. I will be dead. I won’t give a shit.”):