Friday, September 19, 2008
Last week I finished Junot Diaz's The Brief and Wondrous Life Oscar Wao and I can't get it off of my mind. Today, I came home from work exhausted and laid down to sleep and all that kept running through my mind was the scene in which Oscar dies (I'm not giving anything away...check the title). I kept tossing and turning and falling asleep and waking up and when I woke up I'd be imagining that scene or breaking it down, scouring it for meaning. It's amazing how it's so sad, but more so transcendant and uplifting. The greatest literary death since Tony Montana bought it in the early 1980s.
I met Diaz briefly at Politics and Prose last week at his book signing. It was sort of weird because I never get my books signed. I think it's sort of a stupid ritual..... Usually when I meet someone I respect, I just give them a handshake and keep it moving. I'm always thinking about what Ice Cube said....I ain't trying to be the Charlie on no celebrity's (or semi-celebrity's) Snoopy. In this case, Junot sent me to Africa and I am more than grateful for that (though, I wanted to be like, Dog, thanks for the malaria)....I was a bit nervous, mainly because I hadn't read the book he was signing. I got it for Christmas and started it several times, but it didn't hold my interest. It would have made more sense for him to sign my copy of his first collection, Drown, one of my favorite contemporary books, but I let my brother borrow that one and letting Duane borrow something is like throwing a bottle into the ocean. You might see it again one day, but don't count on it. (Duane, by the way, is a bully. Just asking him to return my property is inviting a particular kind of wrath. He missed his calling as a mafia enforcer.) (Duane, by the way, was the one who bought me Oscar Wao for Christmas---Thanks Duane!)
I started babbling upon meeting Junot. At least I didn't cry like the terribly earnest white guy from Texas (God bless him) who during the q&a asked Junot if there is any hope that racism will end someday (you see he's married to a Dominican and has Dominican children and apparently had never thought about issues of race before that day).
Junot's collection, Drown meant a lot to me when I read it as a college freshman and even more as a graduate student. But this Oscar Wao book was difficult at first to get into. The voice is sort of strange and at first seems too hip for its own good, like Adam Mansbach's Angry black white boy. In that book, Mansbach tries too hard and the voice never really takes off. At first, I thought Oscar Wao was heading in that direction. I picked it up again after he signed it. I didn't want to feel like a total fraud. This time, I couldn't stop thinking about it when I wasn't reading it. When I should have been grading papers, I was checking in on the sweet GhettoNerd, sympathizing with him, (frightfully) seeing myself in him and rooting for him.
So yeah.....Oscar Wao is fuego.....What a corny ending.....It's late and I'm tired. I can do no better.