If you’re the kind of person who reads this blog, you’re also probably the kind who’s fully aware of the upcoming Where the Wild Things Are movie due in October.
Just the very mention of a children’s picture book being turned into a movie brings to mind such painful memories as The Cat in the Hat travesty…
… or The Grinch That Stole Christmas tragedy …
… or the Go, Dog. Go! fiasco.
Beloved books all, and roundly pooped upon by Hollywood. So the notion of Maurice Sendak’s “Where the Wild Things Are” joining that list was unnerving. But, of course, if you’ve seen the two trailers, you saw something totally different. Something reverential. Something literary.
Instead of wacky novelty music, a moody indie soundtrack. Instead of exaggerated emotions, subtle shades of sadness and loneliness. Instead of a palette of exploding Technicolor, muted earth and sepia tones. Even the messaging written into the trailer is surprising:
“Inside all of us is … Everything you’ve ever seen … Everything you’ve ever done … Everyone you’ve ever loved.”
Hunh. Kinda makes ya think… think that this movie won’t stink, that is. Director Spike Jonze gave us both “Being John Malkovitch” (one of my favorite films of all time), as well as the “Jackass” franchise, so really there’s no telling which direction this thing will go. But I’m filled with hope.
Still, if the Hollywoodization of a beloved children’s picture book makes you nervous, the novelization of a Hollywoodized beloved children’s picture book should just be downright wrong. You should expect nothing more than a pure, artless cash-in at best — and a rude dumbing-down at the worst. But here’s where I got a surprise this week.
The New Yorker is running excerpts of the afore-dreaded novelization of the Where the Wild Things Are movie. As it turns out, this novel has been written by wunderkind Dave Eggers, the author of “A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius” and the founder of the McSweeney’s literary journal. Eggers worked with Jonze on the screenplay (I had no idea), and no less than Maurice Sendak himself asked Eggers to write the accompanying novel, giving him full freedom to make it a thoughtful, all-ages prose adaptation.
And did he ever exercise that freedom.
It was a very strange time in Max’s life. The day before, his sister had tried, by proxy, to kill him. Her tobacco-chewing friends had chased him into his snow fort, and at the moment when he felt safest, in the cool white hollow, they had jumped on the roof, burying him. His sister had done nothing to help, and then had driven off with them, and to punish her, because she was no longer his sister, he’d doused her room with water. Buckets and buckets he’d emptied everywhere, in a furious, joyous process. It had been great, and felt so right, until his mother came home and found what he’d done. She was mad, Claire was mad, and so, tonight, the only person in the house who seemed to like him was his mom’s chinless boyfriend, Gary, and even thinking that sent a shudder through him.
After he runs away:
The air! The moon!
He felt pulled as if by an outgoing tide. The air and the moon together sang a furious and wonderful song: Come with us, wolf-boy! Let us drink the blood of the earth and gargle it with great aplomb! Max tore down the street, feeling free, knowing he was part of the wind. Come, Max! Come to the water and see! No one could tell that he was crying—he was running too fast.
Well, I’ll be damned. The movie opens Oct. 16, and the book hits shelves on Oct. 1. In a fur-wrapped cover. I’m pretty certain we all need to buy this. (Thanks to Retort reader Anneke for the tip; because, yes, I’m just not that guy who reads the New Yorker.)