Saturday, 3 May 2008

Junot Diaz' "Being an immigrant sucks" - effectively reported by Edward Marriott for The Sydney Morning Herald - is overwhelming.

It overwhelms the fact of Diaz' teaching stint at MIT. It overwhelms the gasps of pleasure from global lit crits. It even overwhelms Carrie Miller's record of a reading the Dominican-American writer gave at an LA bookshop.

You can always rely on Carrie to give the good oil (with an endearing gushiness). Carrie had been acqainted with Diaz because she read his first book - of short stories - ten years ago. Of course it's an American - au fait in this particular line we've a sudden interest in.

This homogeneous reaction to a new author is a bit off-putting. Marriott's list of backgroundings is occasionally spotlighted by more intriguing information - such as the quote that opens this post.

Which appears on page two of the Herald's story. On page three, another volatile nugget: "When girls were in the offing, all my values, my 'benevolence', went out of the window and my taste in friends became incredibly orthodox."

It's rare to find a person who both inhabits the public sphere and is honest enough to tell the truth. It's a biological imperative that drives them to the centre - a place inhabited by females. Muriel's Wedding (1994) may have to be included in school syllabi.

"After ten years and many re-readings of his short story collection Drown," writes Carrie as she negotiates the crowds inside Dutton's, "I had no idea what to expect.

"Were I lucky enough to have dinner with him, I know I'd never be able to keep up. He's smart and wickedly funny and terribly quick-witted."

Oh well, it seems Carrie's at the teen stage (like the girls Diaz found a sudden interest in when his voice began to drop). But we love Carrie for taking time out to not only go to every reading listed, but to write about it.

"But oh the stories he must have locked within," she ends her post. There's more. In the comments is a link to an interview Diaz gave a participant in the La Bloga blog (for "Chicano" writing), which includes these items:

  • "There is nothing that could happen in this universe that could be any harder on me than myself"
  • "They [mongooses] are extremely fast, extremely social, and clever"
  • "The idea of history as a sepia-printed photograph is so wrong"
  • "I feel that any moment in history would be as crazy and illogical as our moment right now"
  • "Vargas Llosa didn't blow my bone"
  • "This book is all about a reader's love"

And this - very Nabokovian - moment: "In the end you have to write for the future. Unfortunately, the only thing most of us know is the present. You have to hope the future has any use for you."

I look forward to reading Diaz, as well as the books he so generously recommends.

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