Wednesday, 4 July 2007

Why I love Where the Wild Things Are

Yes, it's connected.

Tamie (in the comments to my last post) wants me to give more information on just why I love "Where the Wild Things Are".

1. The story is so simply written, yet fantastic -- in the OTHER meaning of the word -- full of fantasy and whimsy. It's melancholy and beautiful and a bit eerie but sad and great. One of the few pieces of art for children that dares to strike that haunting, slightly scary, sad tone that sticks in the mind forever, and makes fairy tales about forests and wolves so fascinating. (Others are: The Nightmare Before Christmas, The Iron Giant, The Neverending Story, the most recent Peter Pan movie, and, surprisingly enough, Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events - I don't know about the books, but the movie nailed it, perfectly balancing lively and sad. [For another amazing, maybe best ever, example of this literary tone, read "Coraline" by Neil Gaiman -- in an interview, the author (creator of the Sandman graphic novels) says it's a strange book because adults read it as horror, but children read it as adventure. He's exactly right.] I haven't read it, but I think Alice in Wonderland might match this tone. A world that's amazing but a little scary, too.)

2. The artwork is just SO darn beautiful.

Exactly the kind of monsters a kid would want to play with.
and 3. Max is exactly like me. (Though I'm sure 80% of the kids, big or small, in the world, would say that - that's the amazing thing about some stories. When the main character is like everyone.)
I love "Where The Wild Things Are"

But as much as any of those other things, WTWTA is one of the items from my childhood that I had buzzing through my head all through the time I grew up, but (as with most childhood things experienced before one learns to start making lists and names of everything), I never caught the book's title. I just had this little, mysterious box in the corner of my mind with monsters and trees growing out of bedrooms and wild things that were scary and funny and who wanted to play with me, and who would protect me from the other wild things in my closet, jumping out of the picture frame above my brothers' bed. (During the day it was something like a windmill, but at night it seemed to be a wolf, looking at me.) Many many years later, I was in my buddy Jon's dorm room at university, and he had a children's book on his shelf. "How strange," I thought, "that this fellow has a children's book on his shelf when he's going to a very grown up university". So I pulled it off the shelf and there it was: that strange little corner in my memory had a title! I got really excited.

There were only three other times I remember that happening. 1. the song With or Without You, by U2. I remember the bassline and the vocalist singing "I can't live with or without you" -- I knew U2 was cool because my 9th grade music appreciation teacher, Mr. Davies, liked them, and Achtung Baby was the first CD I bought, on the same day as I bought my CD player (can still sing all the words to "One" "Who's Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses" and most of the words to "Mysterious Ways"), and we listened to "Zooropa" all the way across the prairies when we moved to BC, but I didn't know they sang "With Or Without You", or that THAT was the title to the elusive song. Then I borrowed "The Joshua Tree" from my buddy Geoff in high school, put it on, and heard "Where the Streets Have No Name" -- knew it from 9th grade music class -- "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" -- knew it. Thanks, Mr. Davies. And then "With Or Without You" came on, and it clicked. I knew that U2 wrote that song, and that they were my favourite band before I even knew their name.

2. "Peace Train" by Cat Stevens. I heard the melody on the radio once way back when we lived in Cobourg (ie, before my fifth birthday), and it stuck in my head, and always made me happy; when I wanted to feel happy in Elementary school, I'd hum that tune to myself from time to time. When I was working at the Kilby Store and Farm, Kjersti told me Cat Stevens ranked with John Lennon as one of the greats, that had that magic je ne sais quoi in their songwriting, and I was curious. I listened to my friend's Cat Stevens "Best Of", and it was good -- really good, I became a fan! But it didn't have "Peace Train" on it -- so later I bought a different Best Of for myself, and that DID have "Peace Train" and I realized that Cat Stevens, like U2, had been making me happy for years before I even knew it was him.

3. 99 Red Balloons by Goldfinger -- I didn't know who sang this song until I looked it up just now, but I've heard it a lot in karaoke bars (noraebang) in Korea. The word "99" tipped me off: I thought it was about Wayne Gretzky (see top of blog post) when I was a kid, and I thought the words went "99 Is Superstar" instead of "99 decision street. . . " "99 dreams I have had" etc.. Goldfinger is NOT one of my alltime favourite artists now. The others still are.

These days, I'd have to rank Radiohead, Tom Waits, Spencer Krug, and probably Prince, above U2 on my favourite artists list, but that's not so much a slam on U2 as praise to the other guys. Especially Tom Waits. I played some Tom Waits for #2 (see my second post previous) and she said "It sounds like he's singing straight to my heart" and she hit it bang on the nose.

Have any of you had that experience? Finding back something you thought you'd lost from your childhood? It's pretty cool, because it's not often nostalgia and discovery combine.

1 comment:

tamie said...

muchas gracias!