Friday, February 18, 2011

On Fruits and Pies: From PICKING FRUITs to BIRTHDAY PIE, interview with NYC's author Arthur Wooten

Have you heard? Arthur Wooten, NYC author of On Picking Fruit and Fruit Cocktail, has a new book out. It's true! Birthday Pie will be available soon, as will author's book events and signings. Just wanted to post a note for Wooten's fans, just like myself. 
I had the opportunity to meet Wooten at the BEA in NYC, in 2007. He handed me a copy of his On Picking Fruit and autographed it for me. He wrote "Pick wisely!" 

I had the chance, a few months later, to talk to the author about his "Fruit" books and their intriguing, funny character, Curtis Jenkins, who's showing us how (not) to discover true love and soul mates. After all, we've all been through these sorts of experiences, thus have even more reasons to fall in love with Curtis. Here's a short article I wrote after this fantastic experience. 

Hope you enjoy the read.

As always, thanks for reading,

Alina Oswald



From high school gymnastics to pre-vet school, from realizing that acting was his call to making a living as an actor in New York City theaters, from discovering shiatsu and becoming a shiatsu massage practitioner to writing, the life experiences of Arthur Wooten have become, at least partly, sources of inspiration for his playwrights and novels. His debut novel, On Picking Fruit and its sequel, Fruit Cocktail, both published by Alyson Books, tell the story of a middle-age gay man, Curtis Jenkins, and his quest to find true and everlasting love.
Curtis Jenkins and his struggle to pick the right fruit (the perfect date) resonate with many of us. After all, we’ve all experienced dates from hell or promising relationships ending with in heartbreak and shock, seemingly out of the blue. And, just like Curtis, we’ve all struggled to realize our dreams—dreams of love, profession and life, in general.
Curtis Jenkins, the protagonist, also opens our eyes to a certain aspect of today’s society, especially today’s dating arena, an aspect dealing with the realization that dating--and finding a soul mate--gets tougher as we grow older. In particular, it’s tougher growing old and trying to find that special someone while being gay.
This sensitive, sometimes difficult to accept topic, is the one Wooten chooses to explore in his two novels. Through his protagonist, the author becomes a new voice in today’s gay fiction. “You hear about the twenty year olds questioning their sexuality. You hear about the thirty year olds who had ten trips in one week,” the author explains. “But what you don’t hear is the middle age man who’s really trying to keep his career going and, in my book, also happens to be HIV positive, [which is] another stigma attached to him. I wanted the middle age [gay] man to be heard.”
Curtis Jenkins’s story is “autobiofictional,” as Wooten calls it. “Look, he’s a writer, he’s gay.” The author is much different from his protagonist, being a writer of all his characters—the delightful Mrs. J[enkins] (Curtis’ mother), Quinn, Curtis' best friend, and even his old and quirky therapist. They are all part of Arthur Wooten in some way, because he, as the author, created them all. Therefore, his characters come out of his soul, his mind and heart.
In On Picking Fruit the protagonist has an unrealistic, fairy-tale like idea of the perfect date, an idea that may actually stay in the way of his finding the ideal relationship. In Fruit Cocktail, Curtis grows up a lot, as a character, thus gaining a more clear sense of himself. He becomes more realistic about his dates, and also about himself. He realizes that, while dating, the question should be if he likes his date, not the other way around… pretty much as it should happen when we go to a job interview. And the fact that there is no resolution in Fruit Cocktail allows the possibility for Curtis Jenkins to continue evolving and entertaining.
The author has always believed in the synchronicity and serendipity of his novels. That’s how he explains the path of his novels being adapted for the screen. “Everything is a thought first,” Wooten comments on this transformation, (adaptation). We find the idea in his books and in Dr. Tunick’s, the quirky therapist, advice to Curtis: “if you want something bad enough you must visualize it first.”