Their perspectives on Sendak’s work, juxtaposed with Mr. Cott’s own exchanges with the artist, illuminate Sendak’s books and psyche to remarkable effect. Enriched throughout with images of Sendak’s art, the book will be catnip for those who already admire him. Non-enthusiasts who never warmed to his more discomfiting books as children or, as adults, to either his work or his irascible manner may find themselves surprised, sympathetic and enchanted ... In this riveting account of Sendak’s vision, Mr. Cott captures the pain and glory of the creative process: moments of soaring grandiosity and times of grinding struggle, of words and images that won’t come or that come in the wrong way.
Cott has returned to Sendak and produced a biography that uses Outside Over There as the key to this great artist’s life and work. Cott has chosen his focus wisely…Outside Over There is a brilliant picture book composed of masterly illustrations and a deep, gnomic story … As for what Outside Over There means, it is important to know that Sendak was involved for years in psychoanalysis and described this book as ‘the excavation of my soul.’ As the title of Cott’s book suggests, ‘there’s a mystery there’ … Cott urges on his interlocutors with his own keen insights, and he quotes from Rumi, James Baldwin and dozens of others. Even for someone such as me, who has written about and taught Outside Over There for decades, new insights poured in so fast I sometimes had to put the book down and catch my breath.
[There's a Mystery There] is lazily written — it’s less a scholarly or journalistic essay than a kind of assemblage of Cott’s conversations with Sendak, and with various experts (including the psychoanalyst Richard M. Gottlieb and the Jungian analyst Margaret Klenck) about Sendak’s work ... What makes this volume worth reading, in the end, are Cott’s genuinely thoughtful insights into his subject’s work, and Sendak’s own wise, sometimes cantankerous musings about the relationship between words and pictures in illustrated books; the artists who inspired him (including Mozart, Melville, Blake and Emily Dickinson); and the kinetic dynamic between his life and art.