I was thrilled to have another chance to see Junot Diaz last night. His first event was immediately after The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao was published, and I had not read it, or his very well regarded short story collection Drown, so I did not go to last year’s signing. The paperback of Oscar Wao came out on Tuesday, hence yesterday’s event. In the year between the two events, I read and loved Oscar Wao and Junot was busy winning the Pulitzer Prize for it.
Junot is an excellent speaker and an awesome guy. He’s funny, intelligent, and humble. I’ve also enjoyed listening to several audio interviews with him – the always amazing KCRW Bookworm program has had him on the program twice, and you can listen to the interviews in full – here are links to the interviews for Oscar Wao and Drown. iTunes also did a recent Meet the Author interview with him, you can listen to that here. And finally, here’s a great Barnes and Noble Meet the Writer audio interview.
The event was awesome – it was completely packed and Junot was awesome. He read to us from an old story called “The Sun, The Moon, The Stars” about a guy who cheats on his girlfriend and she finds out. They have a trip to the Dominican Republic planned together, and they decide to go on it anyway. The story was hilarious, and one of my favorite lines of the evening was an aside he spoke to the crowd in between sections of the story, “Having trouble with your fucking partner? Travel not.”
He also read a little section of an early draft of a novel he’s working on now, called Dark America. It’s not set on this planet, it’s set on a different planet that also has a country called America, with a different history than ours. It’s about two Cyborg killers, going through a hard time in their relationship.
I haven’t read Drown yet, but I own it now. I picked up a copy of both his books at Strand on Wednesday to take to the signing. I’m looking forward to reading it.
A side note – I stood in line behind a women who got two books signed and then said the words all authors probably dread hearing at a signing “I brought something for you too.” Oy. Junot was incredibly nice about it, “Oh….is it a story?” Of course it was. He asked (jokingly and politely), “Is it any good?” She declared that it was “wonderful.” Ok. She could have left it at that. She went on, “I’m confident that one day I’ll be where you are.” Wow. That’s bold and ballsy to say that to a Pulitizer Prize winner! I thought she was obnoxious and blushed on her behalf. He was very humble and nice though, and said that she shouldn’t shoot for that – she should aim higher, she doesn’t want to be where he is. Which is sweet. Of course any unpublished writer would be happy being where he is (most would be thrilled with lower, too).
He’s awesome and unusual in the way he signs. He doesn’t sit up at the big podium and have people climb a few stairs to get to him and stand on the other side of the table while he signs your books. He walked over to the front of the line and introduced himself to the first person there and signed books standing up while talking to them. Each person got an introduction and a handshake. It was very cool. I got there really early and was toward the front, so I don’t know if he ever went to sit down out of exhaustion (there were hundreds of people), but it didn’t seem like he would.
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