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The Wild Things Hardcover – October 13, 2009
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All of the protagonists in Eggers' previous books are adults. It is interesting to see how he handles Max as his main character. Max's parents are divorced, his older sister ignores him, his mother's boyfriend is embarassing and incompetent, and he rarely sees his father. He loves his mom but she is swamped with work and he has to fight for her attention. On top of that, his neighborhood is being torn down and re-developed. His friends' parents are overprotective and frown upon Max riding his bike around alone. He is scolded in gym class for playing too rough, and his neurotic science teacher expounds at length about how everything and everyone will someday expire, even the sun will eventually burn out. Eggers' descriptions of a modern American childhood are spot-on. A lot of younger readers can intensely relate to Max, and older readers can gain a perspective on what it's like to grow up with a single-parent in American suburbia.
As far as the actual wild things go, Eggers has said that his goal with this book was to not so much show "where the wild things are" but rather "who the wild things are". These characters have real fears, hopes, passions, and relationships with each other. A lot of the wild things are not all that different from the humans in Max's life, except with these new creatures, Max finds himself in a position of leadership and control. The relationships between Max and the wild things are very moving and again, very true to human interactions people deal with every day.
People who read this book because they enjoyed the original story or the movie will be very satisfied. Eggers fans will find that this is pretty different from his other books. But the best part about Eggers' writing has always been his honest and humane portrayal of emotions and relationships, and this signature quality rings true through the Wild Things just as it does with any of his other books.
On one side, for children reading the book, it's a bit dark, psychological, and tense. I think without a parent to mitigate and dampen the effect of the Wild Things' more wild inclinations (wanting to eat what makes them unhappy), I think the book might be a bit overwhelming for the a few 8-12 year olds. I can imagine that it would, however, tickle the minds of many.
This isn't a typical children's story, and it doesn't aim to be, just like the original. It's about complicated childhood drama, and the feelings so many of us have when we want to run away as children. It's about that very real feeling that even in the places we love, we can feel alone, scared, and even betrayed. This sometimes, or in my experience with kids of this age group, leads us to do regrettable, childish things--run away for an evening, hide somewhere for a prolonged period of time, knock stuff over, yell, essentially misbehave. As if the dissolving of structure and certainty makes us want to return somewhere wild, and that's exactly what Max does, and what many of us have done.
But the Wild place is wild for a reason, and I think the idea of the Wild Things Island is so extensive, and painted so broad and perfectly, that it also offers glimpse of our adult wildness, our fears, our excitements, our uncontrolled and bestial tendencies that are sudden jolts of rebellion from the world we create for ourselves.
So, on the other hand, in the large sense, I thought this book was really about growing up, about accepting responsibility, and more keenly for children, about parenting. If read to a child, this book gives an incredibly approachable (for children) account of how challenging parenting can be. I think it can allow children, with the use of metaphors that are comprehensible to them, to see themselves when they are wild, but not feel the guilt of it, and then, as a result, begin to feel an understanding for their parents and guardians as well as what it really means to cooperate and behave.
If you read the book, what I have written, will make a lot more sense. But because of this, I can see why Maurice Sendak wanted the book when his masterpiece already existed, it's because he could only tell so much about subjects that he could only vaguely allude.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Overall, I really enjoyed The Wild Things by Dave Eggers.Read more
I haven’t seen this movie yet, and although I’m sure I read Sendak’s original book when I was little I can’t really remember...Read more