Well, I know what I’m reading for Parker’s bedtime story tonight, if I can convince him: Where the Wild Things Are. Why? Because the author, Maurice Sendak, just came out.
Maurice Sendak’s 80th year — which ended with his birthday earlier this summer and is being celebrated on Monday night with a benefit at the 92nd Street Y — was a tough one. He has been gripped by grief since the death of his longtime partner; a recent triple-bypass has temporarily left him too weak to work or take long walks with his dog; and he is plagued by Norman Rockwell.
…Against all probability, some of the nightmares that have relentlessly pursued him since childhood — like the 1932 Lindbergh baby kidnapping — have been laid to rest. A couple of weeks ago a dealer found one of the tiny reproductions of the kidnapper’s ladder that were sold as souvenirs at the New Jersey trial.
“I was floored,” Mr. Sendak said. He traded one of his drawings for it. “That ends my obsession with the case,” he said.
His fascination with the kidnapping, like many of the other details of his life, has been repeated endlessly over the years in the hundreds of interviews he has given. 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.”
…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.
Sendak is matter-of-fact about having to stay in the closet for the sake of his career, but I found that kind of heartbreaking upon reading it. Fifty years together, and you have to keep it a secret?
A heterosexual children’s author would’ve had a fiftieth wedding anniversary bash, and probably wouldn’t even have made news. A heterosexual children’s author whose spouse was dying of cancer would have been able to reach out for support, and even to mourn publicly.
I can’t help thinking about Del Martin’s passing last month, after marrying her partner of 50+ years, and thinking how much things have changed and how much they still need to change.