I’m slowly becoming more & more of a Dave Eggers fan.
I was in captivated with Where the Wild Things Are as a child (though, not so much that I loved it, but I was slightly disturbed by it & demanded it to be read to me often). I grew to love the simple complexity of Maurice Sendak later in life. I’ve seen the Spike Jonze movie. I have an obsession with Alt-J (if you don’t see the relation there, go read some of their interviews). I ordered a wolfsuit for Halloween this year, complete with crown & scepter. I started with pretty high expectations for this book.
It starts with a lot of back story. Max’s family is the catalyst for his journey throughout the rest of the book. His childhood (maybe boyhood, to better describe the vibe) is full of the normal stuff. Fights with his sister, trying to cheer up a divorced mother, the awkward mother’s boyfriend, the pretty much out of the picture father. I grew up in a house similar to this. A lot of yelling with my sister, a lot of attempts to comfort my mom. So you’d think that with my kindred spirit in Max, the home stuff would work well for me. However, this was the most boring part.
Max is cute, but there’s only so many times you could display childlike confusion & have it be funny. By the fourth time Max misunderstands some human interaction he has with an adult I started wondering if this kid was slow or something. I don’t think I was ever this bad at reading people at this age & it makes it seem like all kids are this slow on the uptake.
However, Max redeems himself with his human fears. The same fears we all had as kids that morph upon adulthood. A fear of the sun dying one day, or not knowing how to communicate to others how we feel.
All of this (finally) comes to life when Max sets sail & lands in the world of the wild things. From this point on the book was perfect. The wild things were given such wonderful personalities. The dialogue was both funny & moving. The progression from the moment Max arrives to the moment he leaves is wonderful. I especially enjoyed the war scene & the real life damage that’s implied here. It also includes a lot about love & the different ways people try to show it.
If you’re one of those people who believe Where the Wild Things Are was perfect & should just be left alone, maybe this book isn’t for you. However, Sendak actually asked Eggers to write this novel from all the accumulated material from the film script. The one problem Sendak had was that Max has to sail away to the new land, while in the original picture book he just imagines himself there from his room. But I think the story does a good job of bridging the film & original book by making the sail seem more unreal. Seeing the movie first was also probably not the best idea. While the book definitely differs distinctly from the movie, I think it would’ve been more of a fun read if I didn’t already have Jonze’s vision in my head.
As usual, I’ve made a playlist for this one. Based partially off the movie soundtrack, but a lot of it is my own recommendations that I think relate to the story. But I’ll also end this post with one of my favorite passages in from the book, where Max is speaking with Katherine, one of the wild things.
“She looked at Max, grinning for a moment. “Wow, I can’t even look at you.”
She closed her eyes tightly.
“Why?” Max asked.
Her eyes remained closed, a wide smile on her face.
“I don’t know. I guess you just seem good.”
“What do you mean?” he asked.
She opened one eye, just a sliver.
“Yeah, wow. It’s almost unbearable.”