As I am still treading deadline water, I'm reposting a blog post from several years ago. This is one of my favorites, an interview with M.T. Anderson. Tobin is simply one of the best writers and best people I've ever had the honor to know. Enjoy!
SH: You've written picture book biographies (Strange Mr. Satie), perhaps the best dystopian novel of all time (Feed), a complex and brilliant historical novel (The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Parts 1 and 2), rollicking fun middle reader pulp novels (the Whales on Stilts! books), and some other books I haven't read yet so they don't really count but I have on good authority they are equally amazing, though I can't confirm or deny that at present. You jump from genre to genre like a flea at a dog show (you can borrow that simile sometime if you want, no charge, just make sure you mention me in the acknowledgements) and yet you do each one brilliantly, convincingly, perfect. So, what's the deal, Tobin? You got something to prove? Were you bullied as a kid by some smart-mouthed pre-teen genius who threw a ball at your head and said, "I bet you can't go down that slide head-first and survive OR write a dozen different books in different genres and be brilliant at all of them, so there, poo-poo head!" and you've been trying to prove that kid wrong ever since, especially since after you went down the slide head first you did survive but suffered a severe concussion and to this day still see shiny lights in your periphery and occasionally hear Bob Barker whisper in your ear, "Spin the wheel, Tobin. Spin it!" Is that it?
MTA: Can we just forget the slide? Who told you about the slide? I bet it was that jerk, Milt Barrega.
*drops to his knees and cries to the gathering clouds*
MILT BARREGA! CURSE YOU! ... HOW MANY SWISHIES, SWIRLIES, MONKEY BITES, AND CHARLIE HORSES DID I ENDURE AT YOUR HANDS? HOW MANY WEDGIES, SKUNKERS, KNUCKLE SCRUMS, AND MAR-BELLIES? HOW MANY WALLS OF MY HOUSE DID YOU KNOCK DOWN WITH YOUR CATAPULT, YOUR TREBUCHET?
I thought I had moved on. After all, that was some thirty years ago. He was just a snot-nosed kid. And wiped it on me. I thought I could let bygones be bygones. And then I discover that he tells stories like this to you; that is my bank manager, that he eats at my favorite restaurant, that he sends weird cakes to my wife.
MILT BARREGA! I SHALL SEEK YOU OUT TO THE ENDS OF THE EARTH... AND WHEN I CATCH UP TO YOU, AND I SEND YOU HEAD-FIRST SLITHERING DOWN A SLIDE, YOU'LL FIND THE LANDING AIN'T SO SOFT WHERE YOU'RE GOING ... AND THAT IT'S REALLY HOT THERE! At the bottom of the slide! Which I'm sending you down!
And there are devils there. And brimstone and criminals.
I mean, what I'm trying to say is the slide goes down to the Bad Place. Like, that's the joke.
Sorry. Sorry, Milt. I didn't mean it.
Whales on Stilts! is a middle reader book, a parody of (or homage to) the old pulp novels, a great pick for reluctant readers, and uproariously funny. It moves fast and easy, but doesn't skimp on the quality writing. Just listen to this passage: "She, Lily, and Jasper pulled away from all the people who wanted to hear their story, and they stepped over to the railing to watch the sun set over the sea. Around them the potted ferns waved and the seagulls cried. The clouds turned a rich, rumbling kind of red as the sun disappeared. The sky stretched peach above their heads. The wind blew at them." Simple, elegant, evocative. Any writer would gladly offer up various body parts to write like that. So my question is, if I had a potluck BBQ, what dish would you bring?
I only know one recipe. Cereal.
Normally, the recipe for cereal is:
1. Pour cereal into bowl
2. Pour milk over cereal (to taste)
But I'm lactose intolerant. So my recipe for cereal is a special one for lactose intolerant people.
1. Eat cereal.
I'm the life of the party!
Follow up question: Are you free on Saturday?
PS. Do you prefer Quisp or Count Chocula?
Which Jasper Dash, Boy Technonaut, invention would you most like to own and use at will?
Definitely the flying restaurant. I love it there. I would get them to put waffle fries on the menu, and fried zucchini with Russian dressing, and boneless Buffalo fingers. And then they could have a robotic cheesecake dessert cart, with specialty cheese cakes.
But WAIT A SECOND, I'm lactose intolerant. So I'd be reduced to just staring at the robotic dessert cart longingly.
Even in my own daydreams, I'm frustrated.
Clearly this is an original picture and your head was not cut out and put on someone else's body by my husband with mad PhotoShop skills. Ahem. Now besides the fact that you seemed to have gained fifty or sixty pounds since I saw in you June, I'm curious about the shirt. I guess it speaks for itself, but care to elaborate? (Also, is that a gold bracelet you're wearing?)
Wow, that's some photo. By "greatness," I apparently mean, "my great love of baked goods."
Because you're sweet, like them!
Stop it, I'm blushing! So you see why I vote M.T. Anderson for our favorite literary guy. Don't you want to take him home with you to smile and say witty things and explain string theory and Ulysses? Easy, ladies, he's taken..