Maurice Sendak’s Emotional Last Interview with NPR’s Terry Gross, Animated by Christoph Niemann

In late September of 2011, Maurice Sendak spoke one last time with Terry Gross for the NPR program Fresh Air. Ostensibly the interview was to promote Sendak’s final book, Bumble-Ardy, but as the conversation progressed it was clear they just wanted to talk.

The beloved children’s writer and illustrator was 83 years old and in declining health. He was feeling the loss of people close to him who had died in recent years. Inevitably, the discussion turned to issues of mortality. As the conversation built to an emotional crescendo, Sendak laid bare the qualities that made him such a great author: sincerity, depth of feeling, and an insuperable need to connect with people in some elemental way.

By the time it was over there were teary-eyed people in cars all across North America. One listener, Brent Eades, left a message on the NPR Web site: “I happened to be listening to this extraordinary interview while on the early-morning commute from my small Ontario town to Ottawa. I was entirely absorbed in it; and the final couple of minutes left me with tears streaming down my face, which I’m sure nonplussed my fellow commuters.”

The German-born illustrator Christoph Niemann had a similar experience. On Sunday The New York Times Magazine posted this touching animation by Niemann, which tells the story of how the interview affected him. In the film, various creatures from Sendak’s fertile imagination revisit Niemann as he listens in his car, transporting him again to someplace special.

Sendak died on May 8, 2012, less than eight months after his conversation with Gross. Niemann’s film encompasses the last five minutes of the talk. You can listen to the entire conversation at the NPR Web site.

Related content:

The Mind and Art of Maurice Sendak: A Video Sketch

An Animated Christmas Fable by Maurice Sendak (1977)

Maurice Sendak’s Surreal and Controversial Story, In the Night Kitchen

by | Permalink | Comments (6) |

Support Open Culture

We’re hoping to rely on our loyal readers rather than erratic ads. To support Open Culture’s educational mission, please consider making a donation. We accept PayPal, Venmo (@openculture), Patreon and Crypto! Please find all options here. We thank you!

Comments (6)
You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.
  • Wally Emerson says:

    Turn off the music! Where did this whole idea of the need for a musical “bed” come from? It is an irritating distraction that can only fulfill some producer’s need in you – trying to be Ken Burns or something? I want to listen to the interview without having to filter out non-stop music.

  • Craig says:

    @Wally Emerson: the impact of the background music is your take-away from this? Really?

  • James R Bartlett says:

    I didn’t notice the music; the conversation was so beautiful

  • Cindy Fetch says:

    I loved everything about it.

  • John Reynolds says:

    I remember lying on my back in bed, already tired, yet managing to stay awake through the entire interview nine years ago. It’s just that moving. Sendak is equal parts sensitive and brave. —— I’m happy to know that I’m one of many who were touched and inspired to create. (NPR has a longer clip if you are somehow irritated by musical accompaniment.)

  • Wildflower says:

    I love this 💛

Leave a Reply

Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.