Wednesday, March 4, 2009

My Night With Junot Diaz

Because I am the slowest blogger ever, I am finally getting around to this. Last Tuesday some coworkers and I went to hear Junot Diaz speak. He is the author of the Pulitzer Prize winning, The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. For those of you who don't know my views on the book, here is my review...

So needless to say, I'm not much of a fan. I will say that the book is incredibly well written, I could never in a million years even dream of writing such a book. But still, I hated it. And, being the open-minded person that I am, I wanted to hear what the author had to say. I wasn't going just to get more riled up (like I sometimes do when I turn on Bill O'reilly). I seriously wanted to see if maybe we had all misread the book. Maybe it wasn't just a mini-memoir of emigrating to the US. Maybe it was the feminist commentary that I so desperately wanted it to be.

Another link, here is the Stranger's take on the evening....

Given the evening that I witnessed, with a more jaded eye than our friends at the Stranger, Junot Diaz is a charming, intelligent, quick-witted fellow. He's very funny and something about his nervous speaking tick is so endearing that I wanted to pick him up and squeeze him and put him in my pocket and take him home. But, I also think he's an arrogant asshole. And perhaps that's my bias talking (I'm afraid there's no clear-cut reporting here, the Stranger is enamored and I am enraged, I'm sorry if you were looking for just the facts, but you won't get them here). From the moment he stepped onstage he was belittling the presenter, whom I'll admit was a little frosty, but maybe rightly so.

Part of my argument for disliking him that night has to do with spending too many hours with pretentious creative writing students in God-awful pretentious creative writing workshops, and part of it has to do with Junot Diaz's propensity for swearing. Maybe all the middle-aged people in the audience thought that the various "fuck you"s were edgy, but I just saw them as a front. I myself swear... a lot, but not like that. I'm sorry, but that was a stage act, a persona. That "edginess" that had everyone nervously giggling and applauding was nothing more than a ruse. A ruse to say, "I won the Pulitzer?! Well I don't really give a shit. You know, because I'm so street."

So, I still don't like Junot Diaz, and no, my reporting is not "fair and balanced," but that's the way I feel. And oddly, something in that visceral feeling makes me think that the Junot Diazes of the world would approve.

PS. More to come on the feminist argument that Mr. Diaz started by claiming that men cannot be feminists... are you intriuged? I am!

PPS. I'm not very open minded. I an the first person to admit that.