• Matthew Olshan
  • I tend to think about stories in terms of the energy they release.
    Some stories are a long slow burn of pathos; others flash before your eyes in a burst of delirium or delight. Still others seem to detonate inside of you, clearing the way for a new understanding.
    A few exceedingly rare stories somehow manage to catalyze all of these reactions. Those are the most mysterious of all.
    As a reader, I’m interested in all of these strange forms of combustion. A brilliant kids’ book is just as dazzling to me as a heartbreaking literary novel. I can’t imagine being fascinated by fireworks but somehow ignoring the subtle pleasure of the Northern Lights.
    Unfortunately, we live in an era of specialization. The publishing world depends, like any business, on market segmentation and branding. It says: “You are a writer of children’s books;” or “You are a writer of serious books for grown-ups.” This poses a challenge to the writer who wants to experiment with stories in all their infinite diversity.
    I’m a curious fellow. I like to learn how to do new things. This has led me to study languages living and dead; fly airplanes; sing Renaissance polyphony; restore antique machines; cook as if I were a citizen of every continent; renovate houses; croak like a Tuvan throat singer; soup-up computers; build a mud oven.
    Through it all, there has always been writing. Novels, screenplays, children’s books, op-eds, letters, poems. Writing, like marriage, involves doing the same thing every day, but with fresh eyes and a willing heart.
    In other words, it is a discipline: sometimes glorious, often maddening, but always new.
     

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