Maurice Sendak, the celebrated author of Where the Wild Things Are and the winner of a constellation of children's literature awards, spoke about his inspiration to write and sharply criticized the publishing industry at a speech at Sanders Theatre on Wednesday.
At the age of 72, Sendak told the captivated audience, "I am considered a dinosaur at the publishing house--a grumpy, elitist pain."
He attacked the industry for what he said is the declining physical quality of children's books and a lack of risk-taking by increasingly "monstrous" publishing houses. He characterized the look of new authors' children's books as "jokey, cheap, winking at the grownups."
As part of his address to students in Literature and Arts A-18: "Fairy Tales, Children's Literature and the Culture of Childhood," Sendak offered a personal account of his rise to the top of children's literature.
"I never set out to be a children's writer," he said.
Sendak has written about a dozen books and illustrated close to 100 since 1951. His 1963 work Where the Wild Things Are is one of the best-selling children's books of all time.
When creating his books, Sendak told students that children are not necessarily at the top of his mind.
"Do I think about the children? I'm afraid not. I think about myself," he said.
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