Where the Wild Things Are Author Maurice Sendak: ‘I’m Gay’

For many years, children’s book author Maurice Sendak lived in what OUT magazine recently described as the glass closet. But yesterday, in an interview with The New York Times, he publicly came out:

Sendak“Was there anything he had never been asked? He paused for a few moments and answered, ‘Well, that I’m gay…I just didn’t think it was anybody’s business,’ Mr. Sendak added. He lived with Eugene Glynn, a psychoanalyst, for 50 years before Dr. Glynn’s death in May 2007. He never told his parents: ‘All I wanted was to be straight so my parents could be happy. They never, never, never knew.’ Children protect their parents, Mr. Sendak said. It was like the time he had a heart attack at 39. His mother was dying from cancer in the hospital, and he decided to keep the news to himself, something he now regrets. A gay artist in New York is not exactly uncommon, but Mr. Sendak said that the idea of a gay man writing children books would have hurt his career when he was in his 20s and 30s.”

Sadly, it’s not an announcement centered around celebration. Sendak, who says a recent triple bypass has left him to weak to work or talk around easily, is also “gripped with grief” for Glynn, who died of lung cancer:

“The illness and setting up of round-the-clock care in their home were just ‘so unbelievable,’ he explained. Mr. Sendak is mostly finished with it, but he admitted that for the first time, ‘I feel extremely vulnerable.’ He is afraid — not of death, which is as familiar to him as a child’s teddy bear — but of not being able to finish his work: ‘I feel like I don’t have a lot of time left.’ After Dr. Glynn’s death, Mr. Sendak said he was ‘still trying to figure out what I’m doing here…’I wanted to take his place,’ he said. ‘His death became a demarcation.’ He added that he lost touch with many of his friends, unable to return phone calls and reply to e-mail messages.”

Sendak’s books certainly brought me much joy as a kid. I wish him the best.

Comments

  1. alguien says

    sendak gay? say it isn’t so!

    i think that pretty much everybody knew-except perhaps my mom. a guy i used to date visited sendak at his home and was show a few wild things figurines (that were for private viewing only) which had gigantic penises on them.

    at any rate, i am truly sorry for his recent loss and wish the author of my favorite childhood books the best in all his future endeavors.

  2. Paul R says

    I love his books, and have always heard that he’s a curmudgeon. So I’m sorry that it sound like he’s also depressed.

    When my parents were visitng San Francisco once they tried to buy me a present secretly while I was with them. They managed to do it: it’s a handmade bath mat with the enormous face of a Where the Wild Things Are character. I adore it.

  3. Smartypants says

    It’s been an open secret for a long time, but it’s still a brave action for someone of Sendak’s generation to make a public statement.

    He has given such joy and pleasure to many generations of children and parents. I wish him all the best and hope that he is with us for many more years to finish his work, including the live-action version of Where The Wild Things are that’s due out next year.

  4. Desca says

    That really was a good article today. He does seem depressed, but it seems a part of his nature too. “I hate people”. His childhood sounds miserable. I’m glad he had a good husband for so long.

    He was also funny. Bill Clinton described a dream he once had, where he was wearing a long coat with brass buttons. Sendak said, “Oh, Mr. President! You’re only in office for four more years, you’ll have plenty of time to be a doorman!”.

  5. David D. says

    This is a very sad story, on so many levels.

    It’s also a testament to how poisonous life in the closet (even a glass closet) was for previous generations of gay men…and for many even today.

  6. Dback says

    WHOA. Did not see this one coming, and I read a lengthy profile of him (in the New Yorker?) a year or two ago, and was recently leafing through a gorgeous book on his work. His work always had tremendous poignancy, going back to the shadow of the Holocaust over his family. Yes, the right wing–which regularly tries to ban “In the Night Kitchen” anyways–is going to have a field day with “Where the Wild Things Are” and other books. I still think the “Nutcracker” set he did for Seattle is the best I’ve ever seen. What a talent. Proud that he’s finally “out,” so sad for his loss.

  7. some1elsesboy says

    His books and the Movie Really Rosie where my happy place as a child and still are today.

    Poor guy he brought so much happiness to so many children lives and now his life is ending with such sadness.

  8. says

    Andy, if you really want this blog to be taken as a serious piece of journalism, then you are going to have to learn the punctuation thing. The next-to-last paragraph in this article is especially bad. Take a course or something, okay?

  9. Gary Ballis says

    I read his books to my daughter and son. Her favorite was ‘Someone ate the baby’ when she was 9 and he was a newborn. She’s died shortly after and the books were bittersweet for me as I read them to my son. That was ages ago and now I have severe depression. I hope Sendak’s friends will keep reaching out to him even if he doesn’t return messages. Please drag him out with you. Bless you and thank you, Maurice.

  10. says

    Not a bolt from the blue. I’ve known since 1966 when he appeared in Gregory Markopoulos’ portrait film “Galaxie,” cause Gregory didn’t shoot anyone who wasn’t either gay or Amy Taubin.

    And then there’s the work itself, which is obviously the work of a gay man. We all remember what our childhoods were like cause we play them over and over for ourselves like a movie in our heads the better to understand who we are.

    The little boy in “Where the Wild Things Are” is both a universal child and a gay one. A feisty little gay boy that exists far more than this culture wants to acknowledge. Same for “In the Night Kitchen” — which got Sendak in trouble because its hero was naked and anatomically correct.

    Needless to say Caribou Barbie hates Maurice Sendak.

    Fuck her and the moose she rode in on!

  11. Tyler says

    “Andy, if you really want this blog to be taken as a serious piece of journalism, then you are going to have to learn the punctuation thing. The next-to-last paragraph in this article is especially bad. Take a course or something, okay?”

    Wayne why don’t you blog then if you are such a scholar? I don’t expect serious journalism, just interesting stories. You seem to think you are on The NYT site. Get over youself, you sound like my dad!

  12. Paul R says

    Jake, you either didn’t read the NYT story or you lack a heart. The movie was mentioned in passing, and as you say it doesn’t out until 2009. It was hardly a promo piece; it was a portrait of a sad, insecure old man.

  13. anon says

    Kids either love or hate his work, and for me it was certainly the latter. I have nothing against him personally but his books rubbed me the wrong way. I should also point out that not every gay man of his generation or older was so closeted or self-loathing.

  14. James in NC says

    Congratulations to Maurice Sendak, a prominent example of how greatly talented gay people often are. They are certainly not
    inferior to straights in any way. Carry on,
    MR. SENDAK!

  15. James in NC says

    Congratulations to Maurice Sendak, a prominent example of how greatly talented gay people often are. They are certainly not
    inferior to straights in any way. Carry on,
    MR. SENDAK!

  16. bostonian queer in dallas says

    About thirty years ago, I had lunch with Sendak, Edward Gorey, and James Marshall, who was a “fuck buddy” at the time. All three of these award winning kiddy lit authors were very openly gay within their milieu. Nearly everyone in publishing knew it. Most people in kiddy lit circles knew it. But Sendak is quite right. Being publicly very out would have spelled disaster for them. Parents would have stopped buying their work. Sad. Gay men write the very best kids’ books.

  17. Rikard says

    My hero again and always. Sendak’s work is dark and bitter, with gilt edges and the butterflies in your stomach hopefulness that makes me a child again. I don’t agree with those who think his homosexuality was “obvious” in his work, nor do I find him depressed, or pitiable now. Ill and old, reflective and sad to be writing his final chapter, but vital enough to have the desire for more. Having nothing left to live for would be so much worse. “Let the wild rumpus start!” It’s the least we can do for Maurice.

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