‘Wild Things’ success owes much to Eggers
- Branko Brkic
- 23 Dec 2009 12:00 (South Africa)
Where The Wild Things Are, a bold and visually rich film about the dark emotions of children, recently opened at top spot at the US box office. It couldn’t have happened without co-screenwriter Dave Eggers, one of the most talented and prolific young authors in America.
As a writer of books, Dave Eggers injects a vitality into his prose that’s the envy of novelists and non-fiction authors the world over. His first book, the bravely named A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, was a fictionalised memoir that played with stylised annotation and idiosyncratic self-reference to the extent that it practically defined its own genre. What is The What, his third full-length narrative, has become a standard for any writer wishing to tackle the subject of African migration, and his recent short story collection, How the Water Feels to the Fishes, is a remarkable journey through the secret corridors of consciousness.
But books is not all Eggers is about. He’s the founder of the respected literary journal McSweeney’s, a cover art designer for music albums, and a co-sponsor of non-profit organisations for Sudanese refugees and underprivileged children. Now, with Where the Wild Things Are, he has branched out into film, having co-written the screenplay with acclaimed director Spike Jonze.
Based on the illustrated children’s book by Maurice Sendak, Where the Wild Things Are is a homage to the dark and under-portrayed emotions of kids. The film explores a childhood country that Hollywood almost never visits, and clearly offers Eggers – who lost both his parents as a teenager and single-handedly raised his younger brother – an opportunity to mine a theme he knows intimately.
“I think as a culture we’ve gotten a lot more prone to overprotecting kids from any risk, disappointment, fear or threat,” Eggers told Rolling Stone magazine, in response to a critique that the film is too dark for its target audience. “But when kids write their own stories, they are always full of all of those things: death and decapitation and disappointment and treachery. Even at three, four, five years old. I think a lot of parents have forgotten these things.”
At Sendak’s request, Eggers has agreed to write a novelisation of the film, to be called The Wild Things.
By Kevin Bloom
WATCH: Dave Eggers' masterful TED talk