Maurice Sendak: “Live Your Life, Live Your Life…”

Writer and illustrator Maurice Sendak, who died last year at the age of 83, loved his regular conversations with NPR host Terry Gross, who many consider the best interviewer in public radio.

Maurice Sendak poses with one of the characters from Where the Wild Things Are.

Maurice Sendak poses with one of the characters from his book Where the Wild Things Are.

In late 2011, illustrator Christoph Nieman stumbled upon a discussion between the two that was, as they say in public radio, a “driveway moment” in which Sendak considered his mortality, while paying the highest compliments to Gross.

The New York Times was smart enough to run Nieman’s drawings inspired by the conversation in their year-end The Lives They Lived feature, and also created the video below.

In the conversation, Sendak affirms his atheism, insisting that he doesn’t believe his life will end in a trip to heaven or hell. But he’s willing to aver that such belief would make life easier. And although he’s unsure about an afterlife, he “fully expects” to see his late brother again.

He’s not ashamed or embarrassed to admit that he cries at the loss of lifelong friends. “I cry because they die and I can’t stop them,” he says. And he’s willing to cry openly in this interview because of how much he trusts and respects Gross.

Mostly, though, the author of Where the Wild Things Are was in a strong and creative place at the time of the interview. He talks about the pleasures of seeing the “beautiful, beautiful maple trees that are hundreds of years old” outside his window.

When asked about the end of life, he says: “I am ready, I am ready, I am ready.”

Image courtesy of AP