Wednesday, 9 April 2008

Morose Sendak

I went to Bloomsbury today have one last (ish) look at Tales of Terror from the Black Ship with my editor Helen Szirtes and to have a word with Adrian Downie about the website. The fine tuning of a book is exhausting, but it is so important. There is nothing worse than seeing something in print you wished you had phrased differently. It was good to see Adrian. He was so enthusiastic and imaginative in his work on the Uncle Montague site that I can't wait to see what he comes up with for the Black Ship.

I arrived early at Soho Square and Helen was in a meeting, so I had a chance to raid the bookshelves in reception. Bloomsbury reception would make a superb writing room: a big Georgian room with high ceilings and big windows, masses of bookshelves, the bookshops of Charing Cross Road round the corner, and the buzz of Soho on the doorstep.

Whilst I was waiting I pulled down a copy of When We Were Young, a book about childhood done for Unicef, compiled and illustrated by John Burningham and read a really nice piece by Maurice Sendak.

I never really got Sendak. Everyone kept saying how great he was, but I just couldn't see it. There was something about the way he drew that just didn't do it for me. Then I picked up a second hand copy of The Sign on Rosie's Door and I changed my mind entirely. It is so beautifully written. It is that very rare thing - a perfect book.

So I read what Sendak had to say with interest. There was a lot of sadness. The Holocaust looms large in his life and his work - he is tragically the last of the Sendaks. Some of his close friends apparently refer to him as Morose Sendak.

I particularly enjoyed the story about Judy Taylor, his English editor on Where the Wild Things Are, saving his life when he had a heart attack on a visit to the UK. I pointed out to Helen that this was the kind of level of commitment I am going to expect from her.

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