Why is Wild Things so much the book of my life – who knows! I don’t know. People wonder… ‘What’s there?’ – I don’t know. A mystery is there. Maybe you like mysteries. People say, ‘Why don’t you do Wild Things II? Wild Things I was such a success!’ – Go to hell! Go to hell. I’m not whore. I don’t do those things.
Herman Melville said that artists have to take a dive and either you hit your head on a rock and you split your skull and you die, or that blow to the head is so inspiring that you come back up and do the best work you ever did. But you have to take the dive, and you do not know what the result will be. I do not believe that I have ever written a children’s book. I do not know how to write a children’s book. How do you write about…? How do you set out to write a children’s book? It’s a lie. I don’t believe in these awards. I don’t believe in these clubs; so I’m much luckier than Herman Melville ever was; much luckier than William Blake ever was; but I still suffer from what they suffered from.
I’m reading an interesting book now on the life of William Blake. I’ve read many of them. That whole row back there is Blake. I can’t figure out what it is – I mean, what draws me to it so much – because I don’t understand him. I still cannot read through one of his illuminated manuscripts – I can’t. I don’t know what the hell he’s talking about! But I love him, like, if I were religious, I would feel that way about whatever! He’s an illustrator; I’m an illustrator. He illustrates poems, his own poems, and mythical dream poems. I guess it’s the way his profound belief in something… Sounds kind of idiotic, but I believe him. I believe in his passion.
Into the light of the night kitchen?
My books are really books that are impressed and loved with the memory of comics, and how important they were to me as a child. You know, I did live across the street from the Baptistery; I didn’t live near any famous person; I didn’t see Michelangelo go to work in the morning I just lived in Brooklyn, where everything was ordinary, and yet enticing and exciting and bewildering. The magic of childhood is the strangeness of childhood; the uniqueness that makes us see things that other people don’t see.
The Hulsenbeck Children 1805–6 – Philip Otto Runge
My work has always been considered inappropriate, but the ones that I love, the ones that I think work as works of art and books, are inappropriate! The most important one to me is Outside over there. It’s my most important work, to me. It was my first trip to Europe, to Germany. I was illustrating Grimm, and I fell in love with the German romantics passionately; the Outside over There is like a bad Runge painting. It also brought on a nervous breakdown of monumental force. It slammed me to the ground. I got that close to the fire! I got that close to the fire.
[Talks to the dog]
We all have to find our way. If I can find a way through picture making, book illustration or whatever you want to call it, I’ll be OK.
End of recording