three-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
44-Jan-Feb-2010
By: 
Dave Eggers
user_rating: 
0

A-The Wild ThingsDave Eggers is an acclaimed screenwriter, novelist, short story writer, and memoirist. His work includes Zeitoun ( 4 of 5 Stars Nov/Dec 2009), What Is the What ( 4 of 5 Stars Selection Jan/Feb 2007), and A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius. Eggers is also the founder and editor of McSweeney's.

The Story: Dave Eggers cowrote the screenplay for Where the Wild Things Are, a 2009 film based on Maurice Sendak's classic children's story. In The Wild Things, Eggers presents a novelized version of the same tale, complete with prickly, complicated characters and a somber backstory. Max is finding it difficult to adjust to the upheavals in his young life. His parents are divorced, his mom has a geeky new boyfriend, and his older sister wants nothing to do with him. After an ugly scene at home, Max runs away and finds himself on an island inhabited by wild, hairy beasts. Through his interactions with the playful, moody, and occasionally violent creatures, Max starts to make sense of his own anger and confusion.
MsSweeney's. 288 pages. $19.95. ISBN: 9781934781616

Boston Globe 4 of 5 Stars
"[Eggers] has an intuitive grasp of what it feels like to be a kid--that volatile mixture of aggression and vulnerability, of wonder coming up hard against fear. ... [H]is highest achievement is in having found a fresh way to tell us a story we already know so well, about the monstrous forces of love and hate that mark every childhood--and pursue us howling into adulthood." Steve Almond

San Francisco Chronicle 4 of 5 Stars
"[B]y imagining what provokes Max's return and how the experience with the Wild Things transforms him, Eggers keeps up the dramatic tension to the very last page." Regan McMahon

Independent 3.5 of 5 Stars
"Dave Eggers has created a novel like childhood itself: sometimes weird, sometimes dark, and full of wonder." Doug Johnstone

Washington Post 2 of 5 Stars
"Here's yet another example of a contemporary writer paying homage to, and screwing around with, an earlier masterpiece. ... [E]verything has been made trendy, diminishing the original's archetypal resonance to syrupy movie cliches." Michael Dirda

Times (UK) 1.5 of 5 Stars
"In a trick of reverse alchemy, Dave Eggers's latest novel transmutes pure gold into base metal. He has taken the 300 words of Where the Wild Things Are, Maurice Sendak's great picture book from 1963, and turned them into nearly 300 pages of trivial fiction." Tom Deveson

Critical Summary

Maurice Sendak's spare picture book has captured the hearts of readers for more than four decades. Critics were split, however, on whether Eggers's novel will enjoy the same long-lasting popularity. Its greatest appeal may stem from Eggers's ability to convey both the sense of wonder and the dark uncertainty that make up a typical childhood, though a few reviewers disagreed. The Times, for example, called Max's outbursts an appalling symbol of "contemporary brattish America." The Washington Post simply wished that authors would develop their own material (critics mentioned Pride and Prejudice and Zombies as a horrific literary crime, not for the first time). Overall, younger readers may find much to enjoy here, but children and adults alike should start with the original.