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I think this will be one of those odd, not-quite-right-in-my-skin posts today. Last night, the family and I went to see “Where the Wild Things Are.” It was a weep-fest among the three of us. Some folks on Twitter asked if the movie was too scary for a five-year-old/seven-year-old/fill in with age here. I loved Maurice Sendak’s response. Apparently, he said that if the adults were too scared, they could go and let the kids stay. LOL. But it’s true. I think kids are much less afraid of the darker, sadder aspects of life than we give them credit for. It’s the adults who can’t quite bear that sadness. It’s as if we, too, fall victim to magical thinking; we think we can protect kids from life’s inherent injustices and cruelties, from the knowledge that things fall apart, that our anger is powerful, and that, ultimately, underneath it all, we are alone in a big world in a vast universe. And we try to bridge that loneliness with our connection to other people, people who disappoint us as much as they love and complete us. Life is hard. Growing up is hard and it never stops. Thank heavens for art.
Anyway, it’s been a long time since I saw something that felt as if it pierced through every piece of my armor and jostled my atoms inside. I’m still waiting for those atoms to settle. I always loved that book. I think I identified with Max. And I loved that he could be so angry and not have to be penitent in the end. He could just sail away and return when he felt ready to rejoin civilization.
There’s a moment in the beginning of the film that involves a snow fort. I won’t spoil it for you except to say that it doesn’t end well and Max’s response is so nakedly honest and true that I was completely disarmed. I felt what he was feeling. That happened a lot. There are many silences in the film. (Someone said that the book has only ten sentences? Must hunt down my copy to verify this.) At times, Karen O’s soundtrack (which helped make it for me) is filled with the kind of humming children do when they are playing unselfconsciously. It has howling and screeching. It’s primal. It’s terrific. Yeah, it’s getting a workout on my iPod today.
I think that’s what I really respected about this movie: Spike Jonze and Dave Eggers and Karen O trust us to have whatever feelings we’re going to have. They don’t explain. They don’t try to take the hurt away. They don’t reassure. They don’t patronize or spoon-feed or lie. They let us be. And when we are ready, they let us return, changed. I guess that’s what ideal parents do, too.
It really made me think about art and writing, about how we approach what we do, about that trust between the writer and reader. I am hoping I can take some of these lessons to heart in future writing and allow the work to be. It’s certainly left me with lots of thoughts/feelings/questions to sift through. Thanks, Spike, for letting me get in touch with my inner wild thing for a bit. We’re never too old for rumpusing.