About Daniel Rosza
In the flood of writing in praise of Maurice Sendak (ztz”l) since his death earlier this month, he’s been hailed for his creativity as an illustrator and writer, his challenges to the marketing category of “children’s books”, his cantankerous honesty, his distinctly New York Yiddish humor.
In interviews, Sendak never backed down from the queer challenge his work posed to ‘mainstream’ conventions.
The major newspaper obituaries have been careful to mention that Sendak came out in 2008, shortly after the death of his lover, Eugene Glynn, but none have taken Sendak’s queerness as seriously as they have, say, his teenage stint as a background artist on Mutt & Jeff. They’ve tended to mention nothing beyond the length of his relationship with Glynn (an impressive five decades), using that duration to imply the impeccable, conservative respectability that gay publicists for marriage prescribe for any out public figure. Beyond its apparent rejection of state or religious recognition, the actual shape of that relationship is in no way clear: no one seems to have ever asked.
What is clear, however, is that Sendak’s work has at its heart an uncompromising, complicated queerness, which is the source of its radicalness, and in many ways of its strength. He is emphatically not a gay writer – one whose work focuses on same-gender romantic pairings and sees such relationships as ‘equal to’ and similar in shape to conventional cross-gender pairings. Sendak’s liberatory vision is quite definitely queer – challenging the privilege given to the biological/sacramental family, from its compulsory heterosexuality to its exaltation of the couple to its foundation in parental property rights over children.