Thursday, February 27, 2014
Maurice Sendak's Lesson to Hershel Parker in How to Give Criticism
This is a little story about the perils of being friends with a great artist.
5 March 1992 Good rushed talk with Maurice. Read him plaudits in the capitol poem—[He] asked for a tape, which I will . . . do. Poss of going up 13th depending on my progress [on talk on HM as sex symbol] . . . . Xeroxed Oak Leafs cluster for everyone [in seminar]. Thought later, at home, of putting it (the 12 [poem sequence—“Live Oak, with Moss”]) into NAAL [The Norton Anthology of American Literature]
12 March 1992. MS called 930 am. Told him my Live Oak wi Moss idea (NAAL)—Promised a tape. He [said he] thought he might illustrate Homer—(his slip for Whitman). So after Pierre, Whitman? Told him about [teaching] Song of Myself as a coming out poem.
23 March 1992 Bad news. Maurice called—blood clot in leg—gg to Danbury or NYC hospital
24 March 1992 Lynn called with MS’s # at Danbury Hospital. [2 chats] Watching the clot—following it. I may go up [next] Tuesday. [Michael at HarperCollins FedExing color Xeroxes of Bumbleardy to Maurice at the hospital.]
25 March 1992 Got Maurice at 6 in his new room—private. Clot still there. Friday critical. Clot should dissolve.
27 March 1992 Dr screwed MS. Got him set up to learn someting, took tests & went & played golf. Morose Maurice, with reason.
28 March 1992 Maurice released. Dr claims to have told floor nurse to tell Maurice yesterday
31 March 1992 RIDGEFIELD. Eager to see Bumbleardy but not handed it.
1 April 1992 RIDGEFIELD. One of the worst mornings of my life. At last got [to hold] Bumleardy blown up color Xeroxes pasted up as a book [which Michael had FedEx’d to Maurice last week so he could have it in the hospital]. Read it in Living Room. Dismay—awkward chronology. Move 2 double pages? [Would that solve it?] One with 9 pigs in masks & one wi 9 pigs doing the 9 kinds of dirty tricks, to follow the words “9 kinds of” etc. Puzzled about most economical way of fixing it.
Walk wi [Maurice and] Runge [in property across the road which MS later bought]. Decided to be honest—broached subject. [After deciding that I would risk losing the friendship.]
MS: “Hersh, you never learned the first rule for giving criticism—first praise lavishly.” [Sendak pissed. Very pissed. Very Morose.]
Well, terrible, awkward. At studio I fumbled as I tried to tell him what was wrong. BO from anxiety. [The horrible smelling BO that comes only from sickness or extreme anxiety.]
Then he took it & cried “GOTT IN HIMMEL!”
It was pasted up wildly out of order. Honest Hersh.
Call to HAR about Northwestern project. She said [to Maurice], “What do you expect from the King of Aesthetic Anomalies?” [Hayford also called, and was much amused.] Michael’s assistant had screwed up—Michael chagrined—[package had gone to FedEx headquarters in Memphis and stayed there somehow. Maurice had not seen it all those days in the hospital.] But I remained nervous.
3 April 1992 Buffalo, to give my “Melville as [Heterosexual] Sex Symbol” talk.