Did you know that Google is allowed to break youtube's 10 minute time limit? ['cause google owns youtube now] They've got a 49 minute "Authors @Google: Junot Dìaz" on youtube. It's actually incredibly awesome. He swears a lot.
Also, y'all should read this. Compelling on about 300 levels. I'm semi-awestruck by my as-of-late appreciation of all Gessen's online statements (beginning with "money" in n+1). [The Eggers Advocate interview example he cites in the post -- I relate to that, like ... 'who am i talking to?].
Other lit-related things to read today, besides this discussion: I cannot wait for MagHound, it sounds delightful (@folio @bookslut), remember the reader (@washington post), alison bechdel's entertainment weekly strip (@bookslut), janice erlbaum's book trailer (@mediabistro), betraying the novel (@the reading experience), "I love blogging. I LOVE IT": novelist celebrates her one thousanth post. (@Justine Larbalestier), have I linked to this before? Probably. I'm doing it again: writer's rooms. (@the guardian uk books), Is this really the golden age of the biography? (@gub), What is poetry's place in the 21st century? (um ... everywhere?) (@the chronicle of higher ed).
A lot of the "big picture" questions I'm saving for our book-has-been-completed discussion -- but I already have some! So these questions are focussed squarely on the hypothetical situation of being at page 165, with no idea what will unfold on 166 or 167, or any pages following those pages. When's that gonna be, you ask? The 18th? I'll be on a ship. But I'll try. [Also, we have an advice column coming soon, hope nothing was too urgent]
JULY 18TH - AND ... SCENE. FINITO.
OK. Discuss on the comments. I'll discuss too, we'll all discuss! Yeah? YOU DO NOT HAVE TO ANSWER ALL THE QUESTIONS. Just talk about what you want, these are just ideas.
I realize I sound like an English teacher, so any suggestions on how to not sound like an English teacher, please advise. Thank You, Sincerely Anonymous, Love, Tinkerbell. [I feel like these questions generally focus too much on the Dominican-ness, I think I'm just trying to think of things we can talk about that won't give anything away, so sorry if it seems too um, libroethnocentric.]:
Pre-Question: Did you take the jacket off to read the book? If so, why and if not, why not? Just for the record, I did. Cait did. LK and Alex -- not coincidentally, they're both graphic designers -- did not. I feel like the jacket just makes it so bulky and hard to read.
1. Wao doesn't mess around with obtuse foreshadowing but goes straight for the "this is what's gonna happen." The title predicts that Oscar's gonna have a short (but wondrous) life. Page 36: "Later she'd want to put [Mister] on his gravestone, but no one would let her, even me." Pg. 164: Beli doesn't know that "the man next to her would end up being her husband and the father of her two children, that after two years together he would leave her, her third and final heartbreak, and she would never love again." How does this affect your reading? I feel like it might be like the fukù itself -- your fate is destiny already, but you stick around for the story just the same?
2. If you do know Spanish, did you feel like you understood the text on another level than people who don't know Spanish? And if you don't know Spanish, did you look everything up, try to gloss it from context or just keep going, and then how do you feel that affected your reading experience?
3. What would be your fantasy ending? If you could have it your way, what would happen next?
4. What character do you find you relate to the most?
5. Did you know about Trujillio before you read this book? If not, did you feel like an ignorant asshole for not knowing? I did.
6. Raise your hand if you have a crush on Lola.
7. One thing I've noticed in a lot of award-winning critically acclaimed novels is:
a) Sometimes the author forces you through 5-50 pages of slow-moving prose in order to get to the good stuff (e.g., Franzen's The Corrections), like they're testing you to see if you can make it all the way through, like if you're really in it to win it and will stick around through the hard stuff.
b) Most of the Pulitzer-Prize winning novels I've read have involved massive chunks of family/town history as well as an individual, "present tense" narrative -- Jeffery Eugenides's Middlesex, Chabon's The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, Richard Russo's Empire Falls (which I loathed, p.s.), etc.
Have you noticed that too? What do you think it does for the narrative -- and does anyone else feel that the backstory is often the most boring part of the book to get through, but also feels -- when you've finished -- to be 100% absolutely necessary to tell the story and to give it the grand import it needs to become a great and timeless masterpiece?
Does timelessness simply mean that the circumstances are so well detailed that the mysterious Readers of the Future won't have to do the research on their own? Is it an author's ability to make that part pleasurable that enables their success?
Unlike his prize-worthy predecessors, Diaz's book takes off from the first page -- there's no hard-to-get being played. It does do that "but first, a history lesson" thing -- he just does it so well. I don't know if I really have a question here. Why don't all authors just do this, is it 'cause they don't WANT a National Book Award? Um. Um: DISCUSS.
8. Did certain parts of the book make you uncomfortable? If so, why did you feel that way?
9. This is the question that those of you who didn't do the reading can raise your hand and talk about so the teacher won't know you didn't do the reading --
"And there's something really cool about, you know, a Dominican kid, a writer of color, a writer of African descent, immigrant kid from a nowhere place in New Jersey, spent 11 years writing a book, and anybody who wanted to read it, and that anybody wanted to give it an award, it's -- I'm like, a, that's great personally, but it's also kind of hopeful for other people.
I mean, there's a lot of young writers and artists of color and a lot of young writers, period, from the sort of backgrounds that people don't expect much from. And I'm like, "Let me tell you something: If I can do this, they certainly can do it."
So I'm wondering this --- I know I'm addressing an international readership, but that's about all I know. So, if you're a part of the "majority" race/ethnicity/culture of your town/city/state/country, do you feel you gravitate towards books written by authors with a similar background? And if you're in the "minority," do you find that the opposite is true, and furthermore, do you think you have more difficulty getting into the "cannon" of dead white males traditionally forced upon us by schoolteachers than your nearly-dead white male classmates?
I'm very intrigued by a lot of what comes out w/r/t readership statistics, but something that always really baffles me is that statistically, men just do not read books written by women. They just don't do it. But women are perfectly willing to read books by men, even "lad lit" like Nick Hornby or Chuck Palhlinuk. So I wonder if there are any interesting issues like that w/r/t race.
10. There's a lot of emphasis in the book on what's expected of Oscar specifically as a Dominican male -- he's not "one of those Dominican cats everybody's always going on about" 'cause "he wasn't no home-run hitter" with "a million hots on his jock." How do you feel your family's history plays a role in your own perception of your achievements and priorities?
Interview in "Other Voices" - old, but interesting how much it says about Wao before Wao was finished. From talking about the years that passed between "Drown" and his novel --
"And I was really fascinated by that idea, that like, you know, this is a book about this idea that you can wake up, you can be born inheriting a story that you had nothing to do with, in some ways, and, even more crazy, you have no interest in it." (source )
Junot says: "Talk about whatever you want!"