Tag Archives: Drown

Oscar wow

Junot Diaz has sure come a ways in the world since I interviewed him, lo those many years ago. I had read his short story “Edison, New Jersey” in the Paris Review, and since I wrote for a newspaper that covered Middlesex County I sought him out — after all, how many times does one expect to see Edison name-checked in the Paris Review. For the purposes of my newspaper, the Diaz article was a hat trick — Diaz was born in the Dominican Republic but raised in London Terrace, with connections to Elizabeth, and a degree from Rutgers University in New Brunswick. All three coverage areas in one story! High five, baby!

What made the article truly enjoyable, of course, was the quality of the man’s work, which was demonstrated many times over when his story collection Drown appeared in bookstores. Since then, the guy’s had a charmed career. His first novel, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, appeared after a long interval and was garlanded with rave reviews and a Pulitzer Prize. Now another collection, This Is How You Lose Her, is out just in time for Diaz to score a genius grant. And now he’s going to write a science fiction novel. More power to him.

All I ask is that the Nobel committee wait a decent interval before giving Diaz a call. He’d have nowhere to go after that, and I want this good-guy-finishes-first story to keep rolling.   

Tagged , , , , , ,

Literary landscape

Our northern nabes have launched Project Bookmark Canada with the idea of creating a coast-to-coast “trail of plaques containing literary excerpts of some of this country’s most geographically specific works.” The whole thing was recently launched in Toronto with a plaque bearing a passage from Michael Ondaatje’s In the Skin of a Lion, a novel I haven’t read but which apparently touches on the construction of the Bloor Street Viaduct.

I’d love to see an American equivalent of this project. In fact, I know just the place to start it: the Albany Street Bridge ‘cross the less-than-mighty Raritan River, twixt New Brunswick and Highland Park, which prompted this observation by Junot Diaz in his story collection Drown: “New Brunswick … a nice city, the Raritan so low and silty you don’t have to be Jesus to walk over it.”

Well . . . maybe the town fathers won’t be so keen on that passage. But it would be great to see America hosting more projects like this, or the Ted Hughes Poetry Trail in Devon.

Tagged , , , , , , ,

Super Sunday podcast alert

I heard there was some kind of big deal professional sports event going on today. In case you don’t give a damn, or you need something to drown out the game playing in the next room, there’s a dynamite podcast waiting for you at the Lannan Foundation, where you can listen in as Junot Diaz, author of the Pulitzer-winning The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, shares the podium with SF legend Samuel R. Delany. Meanwhile, Bat Segundo  has posted talks with Azar Nafisi, author of Reading Lolita in Tehran and the recent Things I’ve Been Silent About, and David Denby, the New Yorker film critic whose denunciation of snarkiness has been getting lots of snarky reviews. And Melvyn Bragg talks about just how close to the bone satire can get.

Tagged , , , , , ,