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Video: Questions for Ayad Akhtar

Friday, July 26, 2013

What are your favorite books/who are your favorite authors?

      More than favorite authors, I have favorite works. And I’m not sure I would distinguish between films and books in that category: The Death of Ivan Ilych. Seize the Day. Annie Hall. GoodFellas. The Human Stain. The Invisible Man. Bringing Up Baby. Boswell’s The Life of Samuel Johnson. A Bend in the River.

What are your favorite plays and why?

     I think all of my favorite plays share the same qualities of dramatic impact, social commentary, and an almost classical purity of form: "Hedda Gabler." "Look Back in Anger." "Glen Garry Glen Ross." "All My Sons."

What authors or works do you think are underappreciated or overlooked?

      Harold Brodkey. One of the finest writers of our American language. And likely the greatest long short fiction writer we’ve had.

Do you have any writing rituals or habits? Where, when, and how do you write?

      9 to 2 every day. In my office. I tend to work in intense spurts followed by short periods of relaxation. When I’m working on a play, having an upcoming reading is helpful, and I love to write in the midst of workshops, while I have the chance to hear actors work with the new material. As a novelist, the deadlines are more internal, and the work obviously much more solitary.

Do you have favorite or least favorite words? What are they and why?

      I’ve always adored the French word, oiseau. Which means bird. I love that it uses every vowel. And I love that you add an “x” for the plural:  oiseaux.

Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?

     Persistence. It can take a very long time to get anywhere, artistically, professionally. Be open to criticism, and continue to do it. Persist.

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