I just thought I'd take a minute and do a quick posting about the book that first introduced me to M. T. Anderson: Me, All Alone, at the End of the World. The first sentence of the book says just that: “I lived by myself at the End of the World.” At first, you might think that's a sad thing! However, as the young male protagonist narrator goes on to list the activities that fill up his days, including listening to the wind blow through the pines, reading, eating simple foods, and whistling dance tunes to the mule, you realize this was exactly where he wanted to be. When I first read the book, I could feel my body sinking into my chair as I relaxed. I was proud of this boy for being so independent and happy with simple things. He says “I was happy there all by myself, alone at the End of the World.”
But we all know that that was not going to last! An understanding of fiction dictates that conflict is created when a character holds something dear and then something comes along to threaten that something. One day, Mr. Constantine Shimmer, a Professional Visionary, shows up and questions the boy’s idea of having fun. Wouldn’t you know it, that plants a seed of doubt for our young man.
Mr. Shimmer develops the land, building a huge inn and installing all sorts of ‘real’ fun activities for everyone, and draws huge, happy, noisy crowds of people. Our young protagonist participates … for a while.
It’s a lovely book, both visually (illustrated by Keven Hawkes) and in spirit. The story is a reminder of the joy to be had in simple activities while also asking the question “What is fun?” and making the reader wonder if there might not be more than just one correct way to answer that question. In its own way, it is a book about diversity and acceptance, and it makes me feel peaceful. I hope you end up liking it as much as I do.