The Cool of a Generation: S&R honors Maurice Sendak

by Deb Caponera

If there could be any one person responsible for the “cool” of my generation, and well, all those to follow, it would be Maurice Sendak. But his influence goes far beyond what hip, creative things he inspired in us 40-somethings with his array of stories and pictures. He wasn’t just a children’s writer; in fact, he despised being categorized that way.

Straight-talking, wild-eyed and honest, Maurice gave us “kids” a taste of truth, of beauty, of pain, and of love. He gave us permission to be ourselves, however uncomfortable that was, and a strength that most of our parents discounted or denied us, and he never looked back.

For that alone, we adored him.

From a very young age, I was fortunate enough to know this man and call him my friend. Cleverly sardonic, intelligent, humorous and warm, he became like family to me, never talking down as most adults do to children. With that, he raised the bar—not just for me, but for all who took the time to understand what he was giving us.

His art speaks so clearly and beautifully, wooing us to turn those pages over and over, again and again. As an ordinary person I sometimes imagine him as having lived a hundred years ago, someone I could know only by looking into the pages of his books, and dream of what it must’ve been like and what he might’ve been thinking when he was creating his masterpieces.

But I was there. I watched and listened to this man, and enjoyed his presence. We talked of life and death. We ate and drank. We watched trashy tv (he loved Cops). We told dirty jokes and laughed and laughed and laughed.

A lover—and hater—of life, he just told it like it is. But in that plainspeak was a beauty unmatched, an irreverence so inspiring, and a power that brought a nation, a world to its knees on that dark Tuesday morning.

Maurice, we thank you for every unashamed bit of it.

And we may never be the same without you.

Deb Caponera is a designer living in Brooklyn with her husband and her dogs.

Image credit: Vanity Fair