Thursday, May 10, 2012

Maurice Sendak at the bookstore

Oh, Maurice Sendak.

I read his books, of course, but to be honest I don't remember all that much about them. What I do remember is Sendak as a crotchety bookstore patron -- and I mean that in a good way.

The first bookstore I worked at was Sendak's local. He wasn't a frequent visitor, but he came in several times while I was behind the counter. Not that I ever spoke to him -- I don't remember him interacting with the staff at all.

(Note to authors who are not Maurice Sendak: Do not interpret that as advice. You should continue to be polite to the booksellers you meet. If you can manage charming, that scores you even more points.)

So Sendak, whenever I encountered him, was usually pretty quiet, with the possible addition of some grumbling.

Except for one time.

Sendak was in the children's section, in the back of the store, when another customer recognized him. (I suppose I should refer to her as the other customer -- it was late, and the store was empty.)

From my spot at the front counter, I could overhear bits and pieces of the conversation. And it was a conversation, not just a fan meeting an idol. There was even laughter, lots of it, on both sides.

The woman, it turned out, had grown up in the same Brooklyn neighborhood as Sendak. They'd never met before, but that was enough of a commonality, and they started trading stories, sharing memories, having a little reunion.

It was a good ten or fifteen minutes before Sendak left the store, and he went out, as usual, without a glance at the booksellers.

And I loved him for it.


david elzey said...

did he ever BUY anything? that's what gets me when i had authors in the stores i worked in. i'll allow for a certain amount of professional curiosity, but this bookseller's advice to authors visiting their local bookstores: buy something, keep them in business for YOUR sake if not theirs.

Sarah Rettger said...

I honestly don't remember -- which further adds to the "Maurice Sendak can do this but you can't" thing. I will say, though, that in general our local authors were very good about supporting the store.