Like many fans of Maurice Sendak’s classic 1963 children’s book Where the Wild Things Are, I’ve been curious about how Spike Jonze’s upcoming live-action movie would expand the original 16-sentence story to feature-film length. We get our first extended glimpse of the answer to that question in this week’s New Yorker, which publishes an excerpt from Dave Eggers’ novelization of the screenplay that he and Jonze wrote for the movie. (Eggers’ McSweeney’s imprint also announced plans to publish the novelization, titled The Wild Things, in a special $28 faux-fur-covered edition in October; a PETA-approved non-fuzzy edition will cost $19.95.)
In the New Yorker excerpt, “Max at Sea,” we get a good deal of backstory and many new names. There are references to our hero Max’s third-grade science teacher, Mr. Malhotra; to an older sister, Claire, whose tobacco-chewing friends bury Max in his own snow fort, prompting Max to seek prankish revenge; to his parents’ divorce some three years ago; and to his mother’s chinless new boyfriend, Gary. Once Max runs away from home (clad in his white wolf costume, which the much-reviled Gary mistakes for a bunny outfit) and sails to a distant island, we also get names for some of the previously nameless Wild Things: The giant rooster is Douglas, the horned creature with red hair is Judith, the bulbous-nosed one is Ira, and the main Wild Thing instigator with the horizontal stripes on his torso is named, improbably, Carol (but he’s a guy). As you might expect in any Dave Eggers opus, the story is chock-a-block with the author’s particular brand of whimsy, often presented in old-fashioned, sometimes precious locutions like this: “Pâté was a regrettable name for an unfortunate food. It seemed to Max a good idea to get up from the chair and to leap onto the counter. Which he presently did.”
I’m certainly intrigued. How about you? Let the wild rumpus begin in the comments section.