'Where the Wild Things Are' Author Maurice Sendak Dead at 83

The Atlantic Wire

Very sad news this morning: Maurice Sendak, the author of Where the Wild Things Are, has died at the age of 83, The New York Times reports. The Times' Margalit Fox writes the cause of death was "complications from a recent stroke."

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As we prepare for the outpouring of tributes, we'd like remind you of why this crotchety genius was so inspiring: Listen to his Fresh Air appearance from late last year, and check out this video of Stephen Colbert's interview with him in January.

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The Colbert Report Mon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Grim Colberty Tales with Maurice Sendak Pt. 1
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Sendak, who was never at a loss for words, told The New Yorker's Art Spiegelman in 1993, "People say, 'Oh, Mr. Sendak. I wish I were in touch with my childhood self, like you!' As if it were all quaint and succulent, like Peter Pan. Childhood is cannibals and psychotic vomiting in your mouth! I say, 'You are in touch, lady--you're mean to your kids, you treat your husband like shit, you lie, you're selfish… That is your childhood self!"

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"Kids books… Grownup books… That's just marketing. Books are books," he said in the same illustrated interview. A book lover until the very end, he told The Guardian's Emma Brockes in 2011: "I hate [ebooks]. It's like making believe there's another kind of sex. There isn't another kind of sex. There isn't another kind of book! A book is a book is a book."

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Dave Eggers summed up many of our feelings about Sendak in a Vanity Fair Portrait in August 2011: 

Sendak is the best-known, and by most measures simply the best, living creator of picture books... his work has only grown in stature. No one has been more uncompromising, more idiosyncratic, and more in touch with the unhinged and chiaroscuro subconscious of a child.

In September 2011, Sendak spoke to The Atlantic's Joe Fassler.

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Update (9:21 a.m. EDT): Now it's time to sort out the obituaries and tributes being published as generations of Sendak fans remember their childhoods with his groundbreaking works.

The New York Times' Margalit Fox has a very thoughtful remembrance, with this gem of an introduction to Sendak's works: "Roundly praised, intermittently censored and occasionally eaten, Mr. Sendak’s books were essential ingredients of childhood for the generation born after 1960 or thereabouts, and in turn for their children."

The Associated Press's Samantha Critchell drew on Sendak's past conversations with the agency to find some excellent quotes from the author: "So I write books that seem more suitable for children, and that's OK with me. They are a better audience and tougher critics. Kids tell you what they think, not what they think they should think."

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