An Alternative Author Interview:
TCL’s Countdown Questions.
This week I’m featuring author, screenwriter, and director Allison Burnett!
I’ve actually known Allison for over 40 years, because he and I went to the same High School, although he graduated the year after me (his older brother Gene was in my graduating class). Now, Evanston Township (or ETHS) was, and still is a huge school (about 4,000 students, when we were there), but we were both into theater back then, so I did get to know him. I was backstage more often than when I was on it while Allison was only on stage. However, when I was a senior, we both were in the (essentially obscure) play “What Use are Flowers” by Lorraine Hansberry (who also wrote the iconic play “A Raisin in the Sun”). Ancient history aside, I’ve read three of Allison’s books, but I’ve only reviewed two of them here – Undiscovered Gyrl (which was made into the movie “Ask Me Anything”), and The Escape of Malcolm Poe (which was one of my favorite books of 2014). The other book of his I read was Christopher, which was the first in his B. K. Troop series of novels. I’m thrilled that this fellow ETHS alum agreed to participate in my little interview.
- If you could visit five (5) places you’ve never been, where would you go and why?
I am terrified of flying. In my youth, when I wanted to go to Europe, I boarded an ocean liner — or a plane, while heavily sedated. (Once, in a Valium haze, I even flew to Morocco on a private jet with Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman — but that’s a story for another day.) Then 9/11 happened, and I stopped flying altogether. Although there are many more places I have been that I would like revisit than there are places I have never been and long to, I will stick to your question and say: Florence, Berlin, Barcelona, St. Petersburg, and Dublin. I suppose the reason for my choices is that all of my earliest literary passions center on Europe and Russia, and so all of these places are wonderfully haunted by books that take place there.
- Name four (4) foods or dishes that you enjoy so much that they’ve practically become part of your personality.
Brown rice, pineapple, sushi, and cheddar cheese.
- There is the past, the present, and the future – if you could choose, which of these three (3) would you prefer to live in, and why?
My instinct is to say the past, because of my intense nostalgia for periods I never lived through and because I am an avid collector of ephemera, but then I reflect on the sheer horror of life without antibiotics, prenatal care, anesthesia, air conditioning, toilets, and I chicken out. As for the unknowable future, I am far too anxious to take the risk. I think I’ll stick with the flawed present.
- Best and worst – you choose which – name two (2) of either your best moments of your life, worst moments of your life, or one of each.
The first best moment of my life was the birth of my first child, my son Keats. The second best was the birth of my second and final child, Winslow. Both were mind-blowing miracles, especially as I was pushing 50 at the time.
- Name one (1) book you’ve read in the past year (or so) that you wish you had written, and why.
The Catcher in the Rye. I just reread it for the first time since college. More than anything, it is so god damn alive! I remember my elders telling me at the time I first read it that it was too sophisticated for young readers to fully appreciate and understand it. Rereading it recently, I realized they were right. It delivers its meaning so subtly and delicately.
Thanks Allison! (And oh, but I’d love to hear more about that private jet ride! Kidman is one of my favorite actors.)
Allison Burnett was born in Ithaca, New York, and raised in Cleveland Heights, Ohio. He later moved to Evanston, Illinois, where he attended Evanston Township High School and graduated from Northwestern University. He later studied playwriting as a fellow of The Juilliard School. His debut novel, Christopher, was a finalist for the 2004 PEN Center USA Literary Award. His third novel, Undiscovered Gyrl, was made into the film Ask Me Anything, written and directed by Allison. The Escape of Malcolm Poe, was published in 2014 by Writer’s Tribe Books. His last novel, a sequel novella to Undiscovered Gyrl is entitled “Another Girl,” was self-published in 2015. http://www.allisonburnett.com/novels.html