The Wild Rumpus

My friend Tim keeps a spreadsheet listing the details of every concert he's been to since the early '80s -- or is it the late '70s? Either way, it's very "High Fidelity," but with an emphasis on the Grateful Dead that Nick Hornby's own spreadsheet probably wouldn't own up to.

When I find myself at a concert, it tends to be with Tim, and it tends to have been his idea. Likewise, when he finds himself at the theater, it's because it was my idea.

So there we were the other night at the Public, for a LAByrinth Barn Series reading of Padraic Lillis' "Lights Up on the Fade Out," when we spotted a woman in a fuchsia "Where the Wild Things Are" t-shirt, Maurice Sendak's characters swinging in a line across her chest.

I confess that I was not a huge fan of "Where the Wild Things Are" when I was small. It didn't take up residence in my heart until I was older, in high school, babysitting for Stephanie and Billy, my favorite little kids down the street. Once I'd roared my terrible roars, gnashed my terrible teeth, rolled my terrible eyes and shown my terrible claws along with a couple of spectacularly adorable moppets doing the same, I couldn't not love Sendak's book.

I almost wrote "Sendak's tale" there, but it truly isn't the tale as much as it is his telling of it, in words -- which repetition soldered into my memory decades ago -- and pictures.

So Spike Jonze and Dave Eggers' movie adaptation? Not so attractive to me. I feel about it the way I feel about the movie of "Atonement," which I haven't seen and won't see: I don't want a movie to mess with what's already in my head. If the Narnia movies had come out back when I was nine years old and as enraptured by the books as I was unaware of their Christian imagery, I wouldn't have wanted to see those, either.

And the Variety review of "Where the Wild Things Are" that just popped into my inbox? I don't even want to read that.

My militant opposition to the very idea of this movie is monstrously closed-minded, I know, and maybe intellectually inconsistent, too, given that I once owned a Max doll and a couple of Wild Thing dolls, and have been known to give Maxes and Wild Things (and the book, of course) as gifts to children in my life. But the dolls, three-dimensional though they are, are faithful to Sendak's drawings. The faces, the legs, the toes: The details are from his pen.

Still, at least the movie was made with Sendak's blessing. When Tim and I noticed the woman in the t-shirt the other night, he told me a story about a Dead show years ago, where he'd run across a guy selling "Let the wild rumpus begin" shirts. "It's 'start,'" Tim told him. "'Let the wild rumpus start.'" No, no, the guy insisted; it's "begin."

Sigh. People who trample on intellectual property: You just can't trust them with the details.

If nothing else, Jonze and Eggers will get that line right.
October 11, 2009 9:37 PM | | Comments (3)

3 Comments

Maurice is my great uncle (though we are no longer in touch) and so the book holds a special place in my heart as well. I loved the movie and feel they did an amazing job of it. Not sure if it will change your mind but I figured since you wrote the review I could give you my take on it.

I could very well have been the guy Tim was arguing with.

All these years later - sorry about that.

Trampling, and arguing, both.

Some copies of the book say "begin" -- some say "start"

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This page contains a single entry by Critical Difference published on October 11, 2009 9:37 PM.

The Nobels' Biggest Surprise was the previous entry in this blog.

Comedy Writing with a Side of Sex is the next entry in this blog.

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