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Topher Payne: Where the Wild Things Go

Playwright and writer Topher PayneMaurice Sendak died May 8, silencing one of the most inventive, delightful, ornery voices of the last American century. His artistic endeavors in a 50-year career ranged from illustration to opera, though the work that made him a legend was a 48-page book about a boy in wolf pajamas entitled “Where the Wild Things Are.” I’ve told the story of my introduction to his work before. I hope you’ll indulge me telling it once more in his memory.

I spent entire summers of my childhood at the county library, curled up in the stacks, reading books not intended for children. The children’s section was of no interest to me. I read “Not Without My Daughter” at age 10. I had to look up what an IUD was in the World Book Encyclopedia. I was horrified and fascinated.

But, much to my surprise, a monster drew me in. He was bull-like creature, catching a little shuteye under a red palm tree. Despite my disdain of children’s literature, I occasionally picked up a copy with interesting illustrations, and this intrigued me. The dark, lightly grotesque images didn’t fit my image of kid lit.