There are cultures, for example, where teens are not considered to be, first and foremost, consumers.
Check out previous interviews in the One Thing Leads to Another series here.
I’ll admit right up front to being horribly intimidated at the prospect of this interview. I put off drafting questions by collecting other interviews, reviews, and articles; by sifting through YouTube for conference appearances and even more interviews, by reading and re-reading the essays and speeches on his website…you get the idea. But all that research and preparation just made it worse, actually. So much worse. M.T. Anderson’s reputation as one of the nicest and funniest (Whales on Stilts, right?) authors around seems, from my limited experience (which mostly involves award speeches and receptions and secondhand stories from totally reputable sources), to be well founded and supported by evidence. And I’ve seen with my own eyes (as an audience member etc.) how downright goofy he can be so I know that’s true too. And yet.
You simply can’t read Octavian Nothing, or Feed, or (wow!) Symphony for the City of the Dead without becoming a little overwhelmed at the incredible intellect and spirit behind the words. And I think it’s impossible to not want to rise to the occasion, so to speak, but when I finally had to sit down and write this introduction (which of course I put off as long as I could) all I could do was sputter and gesture and shake my head because really, what can I say? (Thankfully I was alone.)
So I guess I’ll just say thank you for the opportunity, for–as always–making me think, and for championing teens, intellectualism, and intellectual teens in a climate that routinely dismisses all three.
Always Something There to Remind Me
Please describe your teenage self.
Thin to the point of mantis-like. Eager to explore the world in front of me. Already unhappy that someday I’d have to die.
What did you want to be when you grew up? Why?
A writer! I always had stories I wanted to tell. I spent a lot of time reading, and I was eager to become part of the ancient conversation of literature.
What were your high school years like?
There was some fun. I was in plays and musicals. I made movies with my friends. I spent an extra high school year in in England, and that was incredible – full of those eccentricities we now would see as Hogwartsian (students wearing black robes, medieval courtyards, all the entertaining rigors of a British boarding school). That place really stepped up my intellectual and artistic game. We studied Anglo-Saxon history, read Lear, sang Renaissance church music, and created a Cubist play about Picasso’s youth on a stage made entirely of cabbages. Continue reading One Thing Leads to Another: An Interview with M.T. Anderson