May 24, 2007

Maurice Sendak Watches The Learning Channel

NOW I remember why I had this Maurice Sendak interview sitting open in my browser tabs for three days. I guess when I said Sendak was weird, I meant perceptive, while simultaneously making me realize how weird I am.

Because his fascination with The Learning Channel will probably be instantly recognizable to anyone within arm's length of a pregnant belly:

I have a passion for that cable TV show "A Baby Story." I watch it all the time. People say, "They're all born the same way, Maurice, why do you go on?" But here's the thing: you can see the baby's head, you can see the baby coming out. I cannot get enough of that, I cannot get enough of seeing the baby come out. There was one show where it was a C-section and there was a lot of trouble because the baby was huge. And you're right there — you see them slit her belly open, and then they part her belly and grab whatever is there. They get this boy and the doctor is like "My God! Look at his head! No wonder!" and they get his head out and his head now is just over the slit. He's looking around. His shoulders are stuck he's so big. Just his head out and he's looking around. It looked kind of like a Beckett play, but it was so beautiful, so moving.

RS: That reminds me of Julie Vivas's book The Nativity, which has some really wonderful pictures of the Babe's first look at the world.

MS: It is astonishing. I could look at it over and over. It's that first moment, the uncontrollable gesturing, the legs — you know, babies show us that we're really frogs. A torso, a penis or a vagina, and then the legs bow — it's so basic, so elemental. It's that first moment — we've been talking about mysteries today; you could headline this whole interview "The Mystery." There's nothing to solve. Why am I obsessed with birth? I have to see it, night after night, and obviously there are lots of people like me, because the show is always on. It's the face. And the other moment is when this messy little thing is dried off. And the mother's face is still in pain, and then it dawns on her she hasn't heard the cry. The eyes sharpen, she comes out of herself and then she looks at her husband who she hasn't looked at at all, that detestable scumbag over there who brought this on her. And he's just standing there taking pictures.

RS: "Look this way, honey."

From "An Interview With Maurice Sendak", The Horn Book, Nov/Dec 2003 [hbook.com]

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