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Ayun Halliday

September 17, 2012

Ayun Halliday is the Chief Primatologist of The East Village Inky zine and author of the self-mocking autobiographies No Touch Monkey! And Other Travel Lessons Learned Too LateThe Big RumpusDirty Sugar Cookies: Culinary Observations, Questionable Taste, and Job Hopper. Her first children’s book, Always Lots of Heinies at the Zoo, was illustrated by Dan Santat. Her most recent labor of love was the wholly analog, highly participatory, illustrated guidebook, The Zinester’s Guide to NYC. Next up is Peanut, a graphic novel collaboration with illustrator Paul Hoppe to be published by Schwartz & Wade in January, 2013. She lives in laughably close Brooklyn quarters with her husband, the playwright Greg Kotis, and their increasingly well-documented children.

1. What is your hometown?

Indianapolis, Indiana though if we’re talking adoptive hometowns, New York City with a side of Chicago.

2. With what fictional character do you most identify?

Some days it’s the Little Red Hen, some days Sissyphus or Walter Mitty…

 When the kids were little, it was Io, the maiden whom Zeus turned into a calf, who had to keep running so the pestilence of flies he’d ordered to pursue her wouldn’t bite her. It’s hard because other than Mr. Fezziwig from A Christmas Carol, people who try hard to enjoy life in the company of others don’t get a lot of play in fiction, unless they just think they’re happy when really they’re insipid fools boring everyone around them. (I worry that I may be one of those). I guess I mainly identify with fictional characters when I’m feeling sorry for myself or being hard on myself. I continue to identify quite a bit with the  decidedly non-fictional Spalding Gray, at least how he portrayed himself on paper and in his monologues, and then he goes and jumps off the Staten Island ferry in January?! No. Fictional characters are there for identifying with in drips and drabs…life is a lot longer, and our characters evolve more than the constructs of any one book, film, or play can allow.

3. In the movie of your life, cast an actor to play you.

Johnny Depp?  Let’s get some butts in the seats.

4. What work of art speaks to your soul?

The Song of the Lark by Jules Breton. I saw it in the Art Institute of Chicago when I was a teenager, and fell in love with it immediately. When I was going through a Willa Cather phase and read her novel of the same title, I was wounded to see her referring to it, in the introduction, as a ‘rather second-rate painting’. It’s that, “No! Wait! No!” feeling you get with any bad review. Like, damnit, now all the people who admire Willa Cather and have never seen that painting are going to take it on faith that the painting sucks.

5. What books are you currently reading or recommending?

I’m reading Lord of the Flies aloud to my son which gets us looks in the subway for sure. I just reread the Sweet Hereafter and passed it on to my 83 year old father. I’m angling to get Ragtime out of the library because I tried reading it when I was a young teen and all the adults were crazy for it, and I couldn’t figure out what the hell was going on. Surely I’m old enough now. And I’m dipping in and out of Ken Burns’ Civil War companion book in the name of homeschooling the aforementioned son. Dag! The Civil War is endlessly fascinating…the first Battle of Bull Run alone!

6. What song or album is currently in heavy rotation on your iPod?

My iPod got left out on a picnic table overnight at the camp where I work and the dew did a number on it. Our cd and record players are similarly busted. That said, the song of our summer was R Kelly’s Ignition Remix, courtesy of one of the counselors at the camp where I work, who drew it as a blind pick karaoke, and blew everyone away by nailing that sucker every which way from Sunday.

7. What’s the last movie that made you cry?

It’s been so long! I can tell you what movie didn’t make me cry…Beasts of the Southern Wild, even though, intellectually, I understood that the ending (don’t worry, no spoilers here) should have. It certainly reduced my female companions, both childless 20 somethings to tears. I think I was just so damn happy a movie like that got made, and perhaps I’m tearier when I go to the movies by myself, which is a thing I definitely enjoy doing. I was also probably also looking forward to the beer I knew lay in my future. Have to pack as much fun into my days off as possible.

8.  Cat person or dog person?

Cat all the way.

9. What is more important, truth or kindness?

Good question. Kindness.

10.    How do you define sin?

Wasting resources and cutting arts and language programs in the public schools so that business people commuting by car from the suburbs don’t have to pay a higher toll to use the bridges and tunnels. 

11.    How do you define virtue?

Successfully struggling against the temptation to knowingly wander off-course or do wrong, especially when maintaining ones virtue is less glamorous, more difficult, less convenient…and frankly when isn’t it all of those things?

12.   Design your headstone: What does it say? What does it look like?

“Goodnight Stars, Goodnight Air, Goodnight Noises Everywhere.” I guess it could be scribbled on a biodegradable paper bag and tossed into the river after what’s left of me is sprinkled off the Brooklyn Bridge.

Bonus Question: Who would you like to see answer these questions?

Billy da Bunny, Carrie McNinch, Muffy Bolding, Kelly Shortnqueer

Ayun Halliday

One Comment leave one →
  1. Karen Simon permalink
    April 24, 2013 09:18


    Karen xx

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