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.
[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.
...[a] splendid book ... Fascinating and compellingly readable as all of this is, there remains something ineffable about Sendak’s work, for, yes, when all is said and done, there is a mystery there, one that Cott conveys beautifully.