In the years to come, Ayun Halliday may well add the first Nobel prize for book promotion to her laurels as the publisher of the East Village Inky, her zine; as the author of No Touch Monkey, Job Hopper, The Big Rumpus, and as Bust's Mother Superior. As readers of the New York Times will know, books about food are, you know, white hot, and as it happens, she wrote one, called Dirty Sugar Cookies. the Nobel Prize buzz comes from an as far as I know brand new innovation-- the virtual book tour-- in the month of June, Ayun will be making appearances at a different blog every day. We talked a bit about food, and a bit about the tour:
GC: I enjoyed the book, though it was more of a bildungsroman than I expected. For whatever reason, I'd expected some sort of intervention in the mommyhood kulturkampf on behalf of raffish, bohemian, wise parenting. Instead, the book is more of a bio through food. What’s up with that?
DSC: That's the perfect description, bildungsroman, except possibly for the part about how "the spirit and values of the social order become manifest in the protagonist, who is then accommodated into society".I'm quoting Wikipedia, as you no doubt surmised. I had to look it up because I'd forgotten what it means.
As far as an explicit connection between my life as a mother and the pleasure I take in cooking, I feel like it's in there to such a degree that there's a danger readers will think I'm harshing out on my finicky daughter. I hope she doesn't feel that way when she eventually reads it! (Because every fucking word is true, okay?) Showing the full extent of her pickiness is an admission that I'm in no position to pass public judgment about how another family is feeding their young. I even go so far as to say that it's kind of a blessing in disguise that she turned out the way she currently is with regard to food, because if she'd been a "good" eater, I'd have been insufferable, certain that it was all due to my excellent example and stewardship! As it is, I'm so riddled with contradictions, that I'm sure I'd come off as a big old honkin' hypocrite the second I took someone to task for feeding their kids an all-vegetarian diet, or feeding their kids factory-farmed meat, ortaking their kids to McDonalds, or forbidding them any junk food at all... Besides, as any parent can tell you, with regard to children's diet, the inmates often run the asylum. I have seen tofu mommies thwarted by the contents of pinatas. I have seen grade school vegetarians lusting after 99 cent hot dogs. The ways we parents fail despite our best intentions.
Finally ... this is a book about me and food. Just because I have kids doesn't mean I am obliged, or want to remind myself on every printed page!
DSC: The recipes weren't in
the first few drafts of the book, but once we started putting them in, I
couldn't stomach the thought of putting on the brakes, just because the
manuscript was due at the printer. Before I started the blog, I treated my
computer as a typewriter vested with the power to erase. Email was as tech
savvy as I got. I've forgotten how to drive a car, I've never owned a microwave
oven, I don't get any television reception and I'm 41 years old so I'm
kind of far down the list of people you'd expect to start a blog, but I enjoyed
the learning process. I suspect it's much less involved than learning how
to play the accordion, which is another thing I <i>really</i> want to
learn how to do. I'm still pretty pokey and have to preview each post several
dozen times to make it come out looking vaguely like the wonderful arrangement
of photos and font colors in my head. When I learned that my book was coming
out the same week that my husband's play, Pig Farm, was opening for previews, I
realized that a traditional book tour would have to be delayed, because one of
the children's parents needed to be physically and mentally available to them
for the month of June. So, I hatched the idea of doing a virtual tour, and who
better to host the majority of the 30 stops than food bloggers? Naturally, I
respect that these are labors of love, and anybody who agreed to participate
would be doing me a huge favor, not the other way around. There's a reasonable
chance that somebody who writes a parenting blog might have a passing
familiarity with me or my work, because I write Bust's Mother Superior column
and magazines like Hip Mama and BrainChild have been very supportive of my zine
and The Big Rumpus, which chronicles my first four years as a mother. There was
no such assurance that the food bloggers I was about to approach would know or
more importantly, care about my work. I could well imagine that it might seem
kind of uppity of me, appearing out of nowhere with such an outlandish request.
Being able to direct potential hosts to a food blog of my own, albeit a
fledgling one, seemed a reasonable way to let them check out the kind of flavor
they could expect to find in the book I'd be sending those who agreed to
participate. I devoted a lot of time to reading people's archives in hope
that my initial approach would seem respectful and appropriate. It's a fine
line between feeling flattered that you've been singled out by someone who
admires what you've created and feeling pissed off that some chiseler you've
neverheard of is emailing you out of the blue, putting the bite on you forsome
GC: How is the virtual tour going? Will we see more of these in the future?
Bombeck and David Sedaris. (The physical resemblance is quite pronounced, but...) As far as the future of blog tours, I think in order for them to be successful, the authors, not the publicists, should do the heavy lifting because folks who spend a lot of time and energy on their internet creations don't take kindly to anything that smacks of spam.
GC: Dang! I may have referred to you as the LES Bombeck at some point, but I actually think Peg Bracken is a much better reference point than Erma Bombeck, but that might be because of the Hilary Knight illustrations in Peg Bracken’s I Hate To Cook Book. Also, Sedaris? Does he have a monopoly on funny? That reminds me of the era when lummoxes would introduce every anecdote with the plug that it was like an episode of Seinfeld. In any case, good luck on the tour, and we'll look forward to Motley Crue-style songs about how hard life is on the virtual road.