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10 Fun Facts About Where The Wild Things Are

UnknownNet Photography via Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0

In Maurice Sendak's 1963 children’s book, Max, a little boy in a wolf costume, is sent to bed without supper. So he sails on a boat to a faraway land where he tames the Wild Things, becomes their king, and leads them on a wild rumpus. Here's more on this spare, strange, classic book.

1. THE BOOK WAS ORIGINALLY WHERE THE WILD HORSES ARE.

Sendak was working as a children's book illustrator when editor Ursula Nordstrom (who also did Charlotte's Web and Goodnight Moon) offered to let him write his own book. He came up with the title Where The Wild Horses Are, which Nordstrom thought was "so poetic and evocative," according to Sendak. Then Sendak, who was a self-taught artist, discovered that he couldn't draw horses. When he told Nordstrom his problem, she said in an icy tone, "Maurice, what can you draw?"

"Things," he replied.

2. THE "THINGS" WERE BASED ON SENDAK'S JEWISH RELATIVES.

When developing the monsters for the book, Sendak drew on his childhood memories of his immigrant relatives. His uncles and aunts would come on Sundays and "all say the same dumb things," he recalled. "How big you are, how fat you got, and you look so good we could eat you up. So the only entertainment was watching their bloodshot eyes and how bad their teeth were. You know, children are monstrously cruel about physical defects—the hair curling out of the nose, the weird mole on the side of the head. And so, you would glue in on that and then you talk about it with your brother and sister later. And they became the Wild Things."

3. "WILD THING" ALSO REFERENCES A YIDDISH TERM.

As a child, when Sendak was driving his mother nuts, she would call him "vilde chaya," or wild animal in Yiddish. In the book, the mother calls Max "Wild thing!" and he says, "I'll eat you up!"

4. WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE WAS ABOUT SENDAK'S CHILDHOOD.

Sendak repeatedly said he didn’t try to write for children, he just tried to write about himself and people he knew. The books were a form of self-expression for him. Where The Wild Things Are was based on his experiences living as a child in Brooklyn with his hard-working father and emotionally unbalanced mother.

"That’s what art is. I mean, you don't make up stories, you live your life," he said, adding, "I was not Max. I did not have the courage that Max had, and I did not have the mother that Max had."

5. BUT SENDAK DID GO TO BED WITHOUT HIS SUPPER—ALTHOUGH VOLUNTARILY.

"I often went to bed without supper because I hated my mother’s cooking,” he said. “So, to go to bed without supper was not a torture to me. If she were going to hurt me, she would make me eat.”

6. A PROMINENT PSYCHIATRIST DENOUNCED THE BOOK WITHOUT READING IT.

Where The Wild Things Are was an immediate popular and critical success, winning the 1964 Caldecott Medal for Most Distinguished Picture Book. It was also frequently banned for having scary or dark undertones and for a lack of moralizing. In 1969, psychiatrist Bruno Bettelheim mentioned the book in his column for Ladies' Home Journal, saying that it would cause fear of desertion in children. He asserted that Sendak didn't understand "the incredible fear it evokes in the child to be sent to bed without supper, and this by the first and foremost giver of food and security—his mother."

Although Bettelheim later admitted he hadn't read the 37-page book, the criticism stuck with Sendak. From then on, he called him "Brutal-heim."

7. THERE'S A WILD THINGS OPERA.

Composer Oliver Knussen wrote a one-act opera based on Where The Wild Things Are, which premiered in Brussels in 1980. Since the Things are unnamed in the book, for the opera, Sendak gave them the names of his relatives: Tzippy, Moishe, Aaron, Emile, and Bernard.

8. DISNEY ANIMATED A SHORT CARTOON FEATURING MAX.

In 1983, Disney owned the film rights to Where The Wild Things Are. While an animated feature never materialized, they did make an animated short about the book to demonstrate 3D animation.

There’s also a 1973 cartoon of the book, directed by Gene Deitch.

9. THE LIVE-ACTION FILM WAS MORE FOR ADULTS THAN KIDS.

The 2009 movie, like the book, was criticized for its darker tone. Director Spike Jonze said his goal "wasn't to make a children's movie. I wanted to make a movie about childhood." The struggle over tone led Jonze to move the film from Universal to Warner Bros., where there were more arguments over how to translate the book into live action. When the film came out, it was marketed to adults rather than to children.

10. DESPITE BEING SENDAK'S BIGGEST BOOK, HE HATED THE IDEA OF WRITING A SEQUEL. 

Sendak didn't know why Where The Wild Things Are was such a hit, but one thing was for sure: he sure as hell wasn't going to write a follow-up.

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A Limited Edition, Handwritten Manuscript of The Great Gatsby Can Be Yours for $249
SP Books
SP Books

Fans of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic The Great Gatsby need to put this on their holiday wish list: The French manuscript publisher SP Books is releasing a deluxe, limited-edition version of Fitzgerald’s handwritten Gatsby manuscript.

A handwritten manuscript of 'The Great Gatsby' open to a page
SP Books

The 328-page, large-format edition is cloth-bound and features an ornamental, iron-gilded cover. The facsimile of Fitzgerald’s original manuscript shows how the author reworked, rewrote, and otherwise altered the book throughout his writing process, changing character’s names (Nick was named “Dud” at one point), cutting down scenes, and moving around where certain information was introduced to the plot, like where the reader finds out how Gatsby became wealthy, which in the original manuscript wasn’t revealed until the end of the book. For Fitzgerald superfans, it's also signed.

A page of the handwritten manuscript with a pen on it
SP Books

The publisher is only selling 1800 copies of the manuscript, so if you’re a lover of literary history, you’d better act fast.

It’s available from SP Books for $249.

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Pop Culture
An AI Program Wrote Harry Potter Fan Fiction—and the Results Are Hilarious
Andreas Rentz/Getty Images
Andreas Rentz/Getty Images

“The castle ground snarled with a wave of magically magnified wind.”

So begins the 13th chapter of the latest Harry Potter installment, a text called Harry Potter and the Portrait of What Looked Like a Large Pile of Ash. OK, so it’s not a J.K. Rowling original—it was written by artificial intelligence. As The Verge explains, the computer-science whizzes at Botnik Studios created this three-page work of fan fiction after training an algorithm on the text of all seven Harry Potter books.

The short chapter was made with the help of a predictive text algorithm designed to churn out phrases similar in style and content to what you’d find in one of the Harry Potter novels it "read." The story isn’t totally nonsensical, though. Twenty human editors chose which AI-generated suggestions to put into the chapter, wrangling the predictive text into a linear(ish) tale.

While magnified wind doesn’t seem so crazy for the Harry Potter universe, the text immediately takes a turn for the absurd after that first sentence. Ron starts doing a “frenzied tap dance,” and then he eats Hermione’s family. And that’s just on the first page. Harry and his friends spy on Death Eaters and tussle with Voldemort—all very spot-on Rowling plot points—but then Harry dips Hermione in hot sauce, and “several long pumpkins” fall out of Professor McGonagall.

Some parts are far more simplistic than Rowling would write them, but aren’t exactly wrong with regards to the Harry Potter universe. Like: “Magic: it was something Harry Potter thought was very good.” Indeed he does!

It ends with another bit of prose that’s not exactly Rowling’s style, but it’s certainly an accurate analysis of the main current that runs throughout all the Harry Potter books. It reads: “‘I’m Harry Potter,’ Harry began yelling. ‘The dark arts better be worried, oh boy!’”

Harry Potter isn’t the only work of fiction that Jamie Brew—a former head writer for ClickHole and the creator of Botnik’s predictive keyboard—and other Botnik writers have turned their attention to. Botnik has previously created AI-generated scripts for TV shows like The X-Files and Scrubs, among other ridiculous machine-written parodies.

To delve into all the magical fiction that Botnik users have dreamed up, follow the studio on Twitter.

[h/t The Verge]

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