Temptations to Astonish

May 23, 2010

I reread The Phantom Tollbooth recently, and was taken by the introduction Maurice Sendak wrote in my edition. 

An excerpt from Maurice Sendak's appreciation for The Phantom Tollbooth:

"Tollbooth is a product of a time and place that fills me with fierce nostalgia. It was published in New York City in 1961, that golden moment in American children's book publishing when we lucky kids- Norton, Jules, myself and many more-- were all swept up in a publishing adventure full of risks and high jinks that has nearly faded from memory. There were no temptations except to astonish. There were no seductions because there was not much money, and "kiddie books" were firmly nailed to the bottom of the "literary-career totem pole." Simply, it was easy to stay clean and fresh, and wildly ourselves-- a pod of happy baby whales, flipping our lusty flukes and diving deep for gold. Tollbooth is pure gold." 

I can't help to feel we who are working on our comics today, will someday look back with the same sort of nostalgia. I know this moment in publishing won't last forever, who knows when the end will be... but I think it's important to realize how amazing things are at the moment, and that we take advantage of it. Sometimes it's difficult to pay the rent, and working on these giant stories becomes overwhelming. So much writing, and drawing. From self publishing to those with big book deals, this is our time for high jinks, and our moment to dive for gold. 

I also think picturing myself as a happy baby whale takes some pressure off. That will be my new secret mantra. "I am a happy baby whale. I am a happy baby whale."

...a happy baby whale in a happy baby whale fishbowl-mobile!

Thanks for the Sendak quote. Have you seen his interview with Bill Moyers? Great stuff...


I haven't seen that before! I will watch it tonight. Thanks for telling me about that Eric.


Moyers' interview with Sendak is one of the best ever. That interview left me feeling smarter and better about life and writing and everything for reasons I still can't put my finger on. A total must see. I also second Eric's thanks for the Sendak quote from PT, which still sits on the shelf behind me as I'm typing all these years later. What a great book. Don't even get me started.


Yes, the interview was really amazing. I recently watched Spike Jonze's documentary on him, which is also really nice. I loved how Maurice reacted to the Joseph Campbell quote Moyers said to him. A great moving moment. Here's a link for those stopping by, and wanting to see it: http://www.pbs.org/now/arts/sendak.html

I'm excited to meet you Robert! Oh what an autumn it will be.


I liked the Spike Jonze one too, but for some reason I'm particularly keen on the Moyer's interview. Maybe that's b/c my wife and I are oddly fond of Moyers. We have an ongoing gag about what a good back rub we think Bill Moyers would give. It's not very funny, I admit. But somehow the whole "Moyers rub" concept evolved to include other people like Jimmy Carter (with warm peanut oil no less), and Kathleen Hall Jamieson, Julia Child and a select group of others who we feel would give excellent back rubs. Anyway, maybe it's the Moyers rub quotient that makes the Sendak interview so appealing, but it just felt refreshing and heartening or something to hear Sendak owning all that darkness or.... I don't even know what I'm blathering on about. Anyway, yes...quite an autumn ripening on the bough indeed! Look forward to meeting you too, Aaron. And reading TUWB. And rereading Phantom Tollbooth.


Aaron, I did not know about this interview, it's wonderful.
I have so much I want to accomplish this fall! What an amazing time we'll have.


Wow I didn't either and just stumbled on your blog. Feeling very lucky to find both!


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