Thursday, April 28, 2011

Shaun Tan's Wild Imagination

The New York Times profiles the marvelous writer/artist.

From the article...

Tan himself has arrived in a big way this year. A few weeks ago, a month after collecting his Oscar, he received the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award, the richest ($765,000) international prize for children’s literature, adding to a string of past honors that include the Hugo and the World Fantasy awards. Already celebrated in his native Australia, he has emerged on the global stage at age 37 as a major visual storyteller. This spring, Arthur A. Levine, his American publisher, followed up “The Arrival” and a book of illustrated stories titled “Tales From Outer Suburbia” with “Lost and Found,” a volume collecting three of Tan’s most popular Australian picture books. And he’s in talks with Nick Wechsler, producer of “The Road” and “Requiem for a Dream,” about a feature-film adaptation of “The Arrival.”

Tan creates picture books, but he’s not a children’s author, exactly; “The Arrival” is a masterpiece of the graphic-novel form, but he’s not really a graphic novelist either. Chris van Allsburg, author of “The Polar Express” and other picture books that parents are happy to pore over repeatedly with their children, comes to mind as a peer, but the Japanese animator Hayao Miyazaki, perhaps best known for “Spirited Away,” might make a better comparison. Like Miyazaki, Tan engages audiences across a wide range of age and sophistication. I teach “The Arrival” in a graduate seminar on the city in literature, and my wife teaches it in an undergraduate course on immigrant narratives, but our daughters enjoyed it when they were kindergartners, and one of them, now 10, has recently been stealing “Lost and Found” from my desk. Tan’s low-key, open-ended, enigmatic stories are often about coming at a forbidding world from a fresh angle, making it strange on the way to making it one’s own — an experience that children share with immigrants and with artists.

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