Legendary Children’s Author and Illustrator Maurice Sendak Comes Out--At Last

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Thursday September 11, 2008

Celebrated author and illustrator Maurice Sendak, who created the classic book Where the Wild Things Are, has come out.

Sendak announced his sexual orientation in the most straightforward way possible while talking to a reporter from The New York Times. The article was published Sept. 9.

Sendak, a survivor from a family that was mostly eradicated during the Nazi extermination of the Jews, was depicted as something of a paradox by the article: a humble, somewhat insecure man who none the less has a knack for gently mocking himself and others. The article described an encounter with Bill Clinton during Clinton's presidency; Clinton said he'd had a boyhood fantasy of wearing a long-tailed coat with shiny brass buttons, and Sendak told him that he would still have time, after leaving office, to be a doorman.

When asked by the New York Times whether there was a question he had never been asked in the many interviews he has granted during his long career, the 80-year-old Sendak replied, "Well, that I'm gay."

Added Sendak, who had a five-decade partnership with another man, psychoanalyst Eugene Glynn, who died last year, "I just didn't think it was anybody's business."

The article also cited Sendak as saying that early in his career--50 or 60 years ago--being openly gay was not an option for a writer and artist who wanted to make a career for himself, particularly not when he specialized in children's books.

But Sendak's closet went deeper still; the article said that he kept his secret from his parents, and quoted Sendak as saying, "All I wanted was to be straight so my parents could be happy."

Added Sendak, "They never, never, never knew."

Sendak's classic book--the one for which he is best known, despite having illustrated over 100 books--is undergoing the Hollywood treatment. That's right: Where The Wild Things Are is slated to reach the big screen in 2009 as a live-action / CGI feature under the direction of Spike Jonze.

Sendak's next book, a project he began when his life partner contracted lung cancer, is nearing completion; having lost his life partner and passed his 80th birthday, Sendak now contemplates his own mortality, expressing the hope that he will see the publication of his new book, and adding that following Glynn's death, he also lost contact with a number of his friends, finding that he could not bring himself to return email and phone calls.

With his life partner gone, Sendak said, he found that he was "still trying to figure out what I'm doing here."

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.