Hervé Tullet is the author and artist of Press Here (Handprint/Chronicle, 2011), which has captivated children and adults around the world. Its companion, Mix It Up! was just published by Handprint/Chronicle. Tullet lives with his family in France.
On your nightstand now:
At the moment I'm just finishing Nicholas Fox-Weber's biography of Le Corbusier. I'm planning on starting Ayana Mathis's The Twelve Tribes of Hattie next. And frequently, I've been dipping into Design as Art by Bruno Munari.
Favorite book when you were a child:
I really don't remember books around me when I was a child; books came much later. When I was a teenager, the French literature teacher said at the beginning of the term "Every year there's always a student in my class who is interested in surrealism." That year I was the one who raised his hand. I discovered a universe of poetry, painting, pictures, creation, passion, freedom, experimentation, and so much more, all thanks to those surrealists and to that teacher.
Your top five authors:
If you ask people in France who their favorite authors are, the usual, or maybe just the most popular, answer will be: Proust, Celine and Stendhal.
I'd totally agree with that list though I'd want to add so many more, from South Africa's J.M. Coetzee to Korea's Hwang Sok-Yong, India's Rohinton Mistry to Israel's Amos Oz... and so many others. I receive many invitations to visit the countries where my books have been translated, so I'm lucky to be able to travel a lot. I try to discover each country I visit through its literature. Those books let me capture and keep a little bit of each country for myself. That's really one of the great pleasures in my life.
Book you've faked reading:
Difficult to answer! A book you fake one day might turn out to be an amazing read the next year. But the reverse could be true as well. You could re-read a favorite book and not be able to imagine why you should have loved it. It really depends on you, and not on the book.
I've tried to read Thomas Mann's Magic Mountain several times, but just haven't been able to climb it yet.
Book you are an evangelist for:
Letters to a Young Poet by Rainer Maria Rilke is the most incredible book that I've ever read about creativity. I first read it when I was 20, again when I was 40 and then again this past year. Young or old, it always resonates. If I were teaching art students, this is the one book I would require them to read before we began working together.
Book you've bought for the cover:
The French cover of Sometimes a Great Notion by Ken Kesey was terrific; I bought the book for its cover. Also because of its size (I do love long books into which I can immerse myself for a long time), because of the stock it was printed on, because of its publisher, because of the object it was, because of its title. And I wasn't disappointed! It was a great read.
Book that changed your life:
Little Blue and Little Yellow by Leo Lionni was the first book that made me think that literature for children could be created without bears and rabbits. Using just the simplest materials, just a sheet of paper. Lionni illustrated and revealed so many things: from parents to landscapes and even feelings. It fueled my ambitions to one day create--but not to copy--my own Little Blue and Little Yellow. In every one of my books you'll find some tribute of mine to his work.
Favorite line from a book:
"Nothing behind me, everything ahead of me as is ever so on the road," from Jack Kerouac's On the Road. His original draft on the scroll is my favorite version. I'm not and I've never been as adventurous as Jack Kerouac was. But I would say that creating is in and of itself an adventure. The way he created this book, with such intensity over such a long period of time, that piece of art that is the scroll, it all really moves me. His quote expresses how creating can be accomplished as if always for the first time.
Book you most want to read again for the first time:
I'd say Jack London's Martin Eden. I love coming-of-age novels. I only discovered books and culture quite late but this book changed my life. I can remember that when I read it for the first time, I really identified with the title character. I don't remember it all that well today. You've just given me the nudge to read it yet again.