Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy Birthday Junot Diaz (and Happy New Year to You)


TODAY is, by most accounts, the end of a decade -- and a mostly bad one at that. But it gives us here at the Misread City some pleasure to nod to a writer of the oughts who we're hoping will be an even bigger figure in the 2010s. Today is the 41st birthday of Junot Diaz, author of the story collection "Drown" and the Pulitzer winning novel "The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao."


I spoke to Diaz here about his love of science-fiction -- like me, a passion he chased for several years as a kid but gave up when adolescence hit hard. Writing "Oscar Wao" -- about a "ghetto nerd" who aimed to become "the Dominican Tolkien" -- brought Diaz back to sf in his mid-30s. (Why I returned at about the same time I can't quiet explain, but I think fewer people are asking.)

In any case, the novel is kickass and manages to wrap humor, a coming-of-age story, and critique of immigrant culture into an international history lesson like nothing I've seen.

I also wrote about Diaz in a Sunday essay about cultural hierarchy -- the division between what's long been considered high and lowbrow art, literature, music, etc., and why those categories seem to be breaking down. (It's a long piece, but  one of the best read things I've written, for what that's worth.)

Wishing the novelist Junot Diaz -- who also had the good sense to teach in '09 at my alma mater -- a good 41st.

And to readers of The Misread City, thank YOU for your interest and attention, and a Happy New Year to All.

6 comments:

dan reines said...

Awesome. I picked up "Oscar Wao," then dropped it for a variety of reasons, and now I've got it back on the nightstand. I've even cleared out all other books. It is the showcase book of January 2010, the only book in town.

Happy new year to you and your roommates...

Scott Timberg said...

Alright Dan hope you enjoy... I have some very literary friends who were mixed on it, feeling, I think, that the protagonist did not have the psychological depth of a great character, like the lead in "The White Tiger." This may be true, but I think the novel has other concerns.

Colin Barrett said...

Scott, the Sunday essay you linked is a personal favorite. It really resonated with me at the time (a year ago, almost to the day) and I went out and read Cloud Atlas (which was an excellent slow burn) and Oscar Wao (which I read cover to cover without sleeping). I've since read two of David Mitchell's other novels and "Drown".

Both Mitchell and Diaz are top my best new-to-me list from 2009 (other one being Ryunosuke Akutagawa; I recommend this collection). Keep writing!

Scott Timberg said...

Hey Colin, Glad you liked... Don't know that writer and will check out. David Mitchell a source of continuing fascination for me -- just led my book group in discussion of Cloud Atlas and glad to see I'm not alone in loving his work... Cheers, Scott

smnyc said...

I love "Oscar Wao", it's one of my favorites. In fact, I share a love of this book with my best friend who is getting married -- any idea if Mr. Diaz will be LA? I'd love to get it signed for her as a different take on a wedding present.

Rodak said...

A few words on reading inspired by this post.