For a first outing, Terry Woo’s Banana Boys is quite a spicy affair. But then what would anyone expect from a man who uses two varieties of hot sauce on his French fries?
Mr Woo’s novel, which samples not-so-mild subjects like isolation, race relations and suicide, has been embraced by literary, Asian and literary-Asian communities since it’s debut in 2000. In anticipation of Leon Aureus’ stage adaptation of Banana Boys this fall (begins September 22 at Factory Theatre), Torontoist served Mr Woo with a few questions regarding his writing.
Is a ‘Banana Boy’ just a banana with testicles?
Extraordinarily large ones, yes.
Are there more Banana Boys than Banana Girls, or is the book just named as such because it’s from a male perspective?
It’s definitely a ‘guy’ book – a story about five guys and their issues with identity. Banana Girls have different issues, different perspective. Someone should write about it. Myself, I wouldn’t do such a book much justice, I don’t think.
The novel, Banana Boys, is now a stage production. How much were you involved with this?
Well, I know Leon (Aureus), the playwright who adapted the book…actually more or less licensed him the material over beers and wings. Great guy, and he did a good job. But I really didn’t have much to do with the adaptation. I just get paid a bit, and get free tix. And a State of Kansas Jello mold as a bonus.
When writing Banana Boys, did you ever think to yourself, “Hey, this would be a great stage production!” or anything similar to that?
Not really… for me, it was all about the book. Tickled pink that someone out there thought it was good enough for the stage, though. Positively sittin’ in butter over here.
Do you expect Canadian-born Chinese people (CBC’s) to take issue with some of the issues in the novel?
Issues of identity definitely resonate with Asian Canadians, as with most minorities in Canada. Most of the comments I’ve gotten were fairly positive, surprisingly across race and gender. That’s cool.
Has there been a critic or reader who’s issued these issues to you, like over email or in person?
The issues issued were issued over email and in person (sometimes I meet the odd person for coffee or drinks. Self promotion’s a bia-tch.)
Are the characters of Banana Boys based on real people? Or are they different facets of your psyche?
A little bit of this, a little bit of that. The five characters are roughly a conglomeration of twenty odd people I’ve known in my life. Friends, acquaintances, even some people I didn’t like all that much.
Is there any one event/thing/person that/who inspires you?
Music, man. Really getting into 70’s AOR music lately – no, seriously. I love music. Oh, and my parents.
Who is your favourite Toronto writer?
I don’t read.
Okay. Besides Torontoist, what’s your favourite aspect of living in Toronto?
I don’t live.
(Semi-serious here): I don’t have much of a lifestyle. While my friends are buying Calphalon kitchenware and planning renovations, I’m making KD casseroles on a student/artist budget.
(Serious here): I love the electronic music scene. Some of the best talent in this city, lemme says.
Where can we find you on your night off?
If I’m not broke, I’ll be at a club listening to a fave DJ. Either that, or drinking heavily. Or both.
Tell us about your new novel, if you can.
Well, I actually kinda sorta shelved it over the summer. The first draft was completed when I was in a much darker place and a much darker mood, and I found that it was bringing me down from the sunshine lollipop existence I’m in right now. I’ll revisit and revamp it later – plenty of time for storytelling. Right now, the real story is living. (Or, as much as one can live without Calphalon kitchenware.)
Banana Boys runs from September 22-October 16. Ticket info is here. Or, if you’d like to get the original text, try here. If you want to know more, go here.