Friday, October 16, 2009

Of Sendak, Where The Wild Things Are and Heritage Auctions

Oct. 16, 2009
Posted by Noah

I will admit that I'm curious the see Spike Jonze's Where The Wild Things Are as it opens this weekend nationwide, though I know the chances of me doing that are, oh, let's see... Slim to none. No babysitter for our daughter, and no way she - 3-1/2 years old - would be able to make it through a movie that is, from what I've read and seen, a little too intense for kids as little as she.

No, more than likely I will have to wait for about two years until it shows up on TNT, or some cable outlet like that, joining the wretched Harry Potter movies and the always compelling Lord of the Rings movies in perpetual holiday rotation. It's not what I would choose, it's simply the way it is...

Here at Heritage Auctions there is, of course, a Sendak history, and Where The Wild Things Are figures most prominently in it. Numerous first edition Wild Things have shown up in our Rare Books events, with a very rare first edition of the book selling for $3,346 in June of 2008. There have also been posters, signed prints and various other Wild Things stuff that have brought the greatest prices.

The one that beats them all, however, and is the rarest of the rare when it comes to Sendak-related lots here at Heritage, dates back only to February of this year, when an original Wild Things backdrop landscape, from the brush of the master himself, brought almost $75,000 as part of an Illustration Art Auction. As I've said before in this blog, that's a big matzoh ball! Sendak Art never comes up for auction - almost never - as it's all been given to a private foundation for safekeeping. While I'd love to see more come through Heritage Auctions, I'm okay with this. Sendak is a national treasure, and his drawings should be treated as such.

There is, actually, another Sendak Wild Things drawing in the Oct. 27 Illustration Art Auction, a Wild Thing Nutcracker ballet set design, a gorgeous seascape with a cliff and Max's boat. It's estimated at $25,000+, which I would say, plebe though I may be, is a wee bit conservative. More like $50,000 and up, I'd reckon.

Though you probably haven't noticed, I've avoided giving my personal feelings on the book, which I love deeply. Along with In The Night Kitchen and Outside Over There, Where The Wild Things Are forms the centerpiece of what is easily the greatest modern trilogy of little kids' books. They are complex, joyful, frightening, unbelievably beautiful and, simply, a ton of fun to read. I'll avoid saying much else because A) it's all being written right now b/c of this movie and B) Most every American born post-1960 has read this book a thousand times themselves and a few thousand more to their own kids and grandkids.

I will say this: I think I always viewed the Wild Things themselves as a little more sinister than they appear to be in the movie. When they said "We'll eat you up, we love you so!" I always assumed that they did indeed want to eat him up, and that it was their plan all along. This probably says more about me and my emerging world view as a child than about how badly everyone else interpreted this book, but, really, who's asking?

Reviews on Jonze's movie have been quite favorable, and by all accounts he's captured the spirit of the book - a monumental achievement if he did. Much like LOTR, fans have been shaking with fear for years that this movie would actually happen, let alone daring to hope that it would actually be good - as rife as Hollywood is with bad kids movies and commercialism gone awry (New Wild Things Cereal from Kellogs! Unleash the Wild Thing within - with a good breakfast!) we all had good reason to think this movie would just stink.

Even though I won't get to see it for a few years, I'm glad to hear that indeed it doesn't stink, isn't just kinda bad, but is actually good and true to the spirit of the book and the intent of the writer. Hollywood take note: you can actually make a good movie by being true to the original source material.

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-Noah Fleisher

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