Wednesday, October 02, 2013
Halli Villegas
By OFW Editor: Michael Keyton
Published: June 08, 2013

Accomplishment: Halli Villegas is based in Toronto, Ontario, and is the owner and publisher of the independent press Tightrope Books. Halli has written three collections of poetry, Red Promises, In the Silence Absence Makes and The Human Cannonball, and several anthology pieces. Her poetry and prose have appeared in places such as the LRC, Exile, Kiss Machine, Pagitica, Variety Crossings and The Windsor Review, and her book, The Hair Wreath and Other Stories, was published by ChiZine in 2010.

Has a book ever made you angry? If so which one?

Many, many books have made me angry. The ones I wish I had written, the ones that are badly written and still say New York Times Best Seller on the cover, the ones where the characters march to their doom and you can’t stop them. In regards to the last, I have never been able to finish Anna Karenina or Madame Bovary for exactly that reason. I want to slap them both and tell them to get it together. I remember my sister reading Of Human Bondage on the deck one summer and getting up and tossing it over the side because she was mad at the protagonist being such an idiot. I told her I understood completely as I felt the same way about Bovary and good old Anna. And of course I am mad at the books I wish I had written for being by someone else. Mad at them the way an angry toddler says “I hate you mommy,” but then comes running to you when they trip and fall.

What four books do I wish I had written?

The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson
The Shining by Stephen King
Cheri by Colette
Ada by Vladimir Nabokov

Will we still be reading fairy tales in a hundred years time?

I believe that fairytales will always be with us. They are a way of imparting lessons, unpleasant truths and survival strategies without it being taken as a lecture or a factual exercise. They bypass that part of our brain that says “oh this is good for me so I am going to tune out now because it will be boring” to touch the visceral part of humanity that loves storytelling. Like hiding broccoli in French fries. Whether you believe in fairytales as a way of describing personal journeys and full of hidden signposts for moving to the next stage in life, such as Clarissa Pinkola Estes’ take on them, or as cautionary tales, like a Brother’s Grimm version, there is always an aha moment with fairytales when the reader or listener realizes he has just learned some truth, even if it is not something they can articulate. I read somewhere that movies are now our new fairytales, that sitting in a movie theater is the equivalent of gathering around the fire for story telling and that the movies that stay with you are your core stories and beliefs. I like that idea, but its caused me some sleepless nights trying to figure out why I love Blade Runner so much, what does it say about me. Here I had thought it was just because I thought Harrison Ford was sexy.

What is the darkest fairy tale you’ve read?

The darkest fairy tale I’ve ever read? Well most of them are pretty gruesome, but strangely enough the two that I remember the best and often think of are two Japanese fairytales from a book my grandparents gave me as a child. One was called “The Boy who Drew Cats,” about a kid who obsessively draws cats, and is given the advice “avoid large places, stick to small” and ends up in an abandoned monastery. When night falls he remembers the advice and hides in a small cupboard. He hears terrible noises all night long and when daylight comes and he looks out of his cupboard he sees a giant dead demon rat and the drawings of his cats all have blood around their mouths. The other was about a girl who instead of sweeping up properly would sweep everything, even the used toothpicks under the tatami mats. One night all these little toothpick men come out from under the mat and torment her. Guess who swept properly from then on? I wouldn’t say they are as dark as say Bluebeard, or even the original Cinderella, but they were creepy as hell and kept me up wondering what that noise was in the hall. Little toothpick men coming to get me because I was such a slob? Or cats carrying dead rats down the hallway in the dark?

What was the first story that ever made you afraid?

My family seemed to have a genius for telling completely inappropriate stories to children. Therefore some of the first stories I can remember are ones from when I was two or three about my great grandmother sewing through her fingernail on the sewing machine, about one of my mother’s cousins jumping on the bed, falling off and impaling himself on tailor’s yardstick (the kind that stand up on a little stand), about one of my grandfather’s siblings being killed by a gun on the fourth of July and another one of them being killed by lightening and it turning one of her eyes blue. There were stories of neighbours who talked to their dead husbands, and rabid dogs, and my father’s mother abandoning him and disappearing. These pretty much were the background to my childhood, which could explain why I am as neurotic and paranoid as I am, or maybe not, maybe I was just born this way.

Are you ever afraid you will one day stop enjoying writing?

I stop enjoying writing everyday. It’s work. It’s lonely sometimes, it makes you think that you are a pretentious hack some days and a genius on others, it causes sleepless nights, drives you to drink, is ongoing, never stopping. It’s like being married. Oh there is seldom a day when I don’t look enviously at other people who never had the urge to write, who go about their business without noting every damn detail of every place they go every person they meet, who have jobs that actually pay on a regular basis. However what would fill the gap left if I didn’t write, I can’t imagine and I really don’t want to. So I guess I will keep on doing it, just like I’ll keep on being married. For now.

Are you pessimistic or optimistic about the future – and why?

I’m pessimistic about the future because as my father says, “they all die.” That includes me and everyone I love, hate and am indifferent to. No matter how much fun we’re having there is no other ending to the story, no matter how many aerobics classes we take or how much overpriced organic crap we eat, or who we love or hate, we all get the same lousy tearjerker ending.

'They all die.' The words hit me, along with the books she threw in my face. They left several bruises but just then I didn't care very much. One book screamed out at me. The Hair Wreath and other stories. And I knew this was it. An angel had come to me and the dame had delivered. The book was great but The Hair Wreath was real. It was one of those upmarket beauty parlours that dealt with wrinkles and hair-loss; dealt with losers who confused mortality with the poor. Something they could  ignore if they had enough bucks. 'We all get the same lousy tearjerker endings,'  Halli had said. Well not me, not Sheri - not now I knew where she was.

But Bo...well that was a different story.

Login/Register to leave a comment, or Login using or
Post Comments
No Comment Found.