Wednesday, December 10, 2008

And it was still hot

For much of the last two weeks, a phrase has been running through my head: "good things to eat," which is not exactly remarkable as a phrase, but I knew it was part of something I had read that I wanted to remember.  The rhythm of the remaining elements of a longer sentence lodged somewhere in my subconscious was batting about like butterfly wings.

Yesterday, more surfaced, enough to locate it: "Then all around from far away across the world he smelled good things to eat so he gave up being king of where the wild things are."  

Maurice Sendak's Where the Wild Things Are was one of the first books given to Robert and has been one of his favorites.  I love reading this book out loud.  From the opening sentence, the words roll, ebb, and flow with an understated precision and a casual, but calculated composition--"The night Max wore his wolf suit and made mischief of one kind and another. . ."  Note the alliteration, the phonic echo, especially with the vowels.  Read the opening sentence again and notice how long the main verb is delayed (I don't even quote it here), how the sentence becomes heavy with suspense.

But the sentence I quoted first is the climactic sentence.  Max has come full circle and become not exactly the permanent child entitled as a birthright to misbehavior, as he had anticipated in traveling "in and out of weeks and almost over a year" to the land of the wild things.  Instead, he is an adult, sending the monsters off to bed without their supper.  And he finds he wants "to be where someone loved him best of all."

Isn't this the saddest thing about being a grown up?  That realization that you are alone somewhere, pretending to an authority you're not even sure is real, wishing you could be home again where someone would take care of you?  Or as my dad said recently, the realization that no one is coming to your rescue is a sure sign you're finally an adult.  

But Max can return home, the deep, secret wish that many of us carry around inside, and reading the book is so pleasurable because the homecoming enacts itself with every reading: misbehavior, banishment, escape, remorse, return.  The first part of the sentence that lingered in my head, "then all around from far away across the world," is represented on its own line of text and creates and builds anticipation--almost every word prior to the noun, "world," is a preposition, each preposition signifying a different relationship with the world, each relationship strung together in a chain, leading up to, anticipating and yet resisting that vast space without that is not the self--the world.  The introductory string of words that forms a phrase forms a bridge back to some primeval self, from the primordial to the primeval (if that makes sense).  

The next line begins with "he"--"he smelled good things to eat."  The inner child is restored to itself and finds a sensory focus, a replenishment.  Replenishment guides Max home, "and into the night of his very own room where he found his supper waiting for him"--


Elizabeth said...

I wept like a child this morning, filled with sorrow. Things have been building to this point which is a recurrent point and something I know will ebb again. Your analysis of Where the Wild Things Are is a comfort to me, today, perhaps because it affirms the need to be comforted. To be taken care of. To be rescued. As I try to rescue Sophie, I realize that no one will rescue me.

Special Needs Mama said...

Oh gosh. I had forgotten how much I loved this book, and his sentences. Give those words to a copyeditor and see what survives. I'm about to go find it in Josie's room. ...

Elizabeth said...

Check my blog for an award for you.