Wassup Rockers

Junot Díaz @ Barnes and Noble (Union Square).

Went to see Junot Díaz speak on Thursday. My token 90s-indie friend came with me, since she’s in an MFA program and it’s her thing to go to author readings and other similar events. She’s not very familiar with his work, though, so I felt nervous that this would be her first exposure to him.

If you’ve been to the B&N in Union Square you know they have a big space for author readings, and the crowd that showed up for this one was pretty big. Those who couldn’t sit in the designated area had to stand… behind velvet ropes. Yeah, the whole thing was ridiculous, but I do give props to B&N for being well-organized and efficient about the whole situation.

I was kinda mad because my copy of Oscar Wao hadn’t arrived by that point. In fact, I received an email earlier in the day telling me they had just shipped my copy, and at this point in time, I still haven’t received it. They did cut the cost a bit more though, so I guess I can’t complain too much. Since I didn’t have a copy of the novel I actually went home to the Bronx to get my copy of Drown, but I felt pretty ambivalent about the whole “meet the author and get your book autographed” schtick.

When you encounter people like Díaz, you don’t just want to meet him, get your book signed and dedicated to you, shake his hand, or get your picture taken with him. No, what you want to do when you meet people like Junot Díaz is party and get drunk and talk about how you miss the old country and oh man have you read this awesome book written by this crazy white dead motherfucker, it’s totally irrelevant in my life but boy can the crazy white dead motherfucker dude write!

The crowd was so big and everyone was clapping at everything he said that I found it awkward and he felt awkward too, I think. I think he works better with smaller groups, where he can be more personable and it’s not like he’s talking at people. This also makes it sound like he’d be a pretty good teacher.

Bee tee dubs, when he was talking about geekdom and LOTR, he mentioned that some of the students he had actually knew elvish. Damn! Can you imagine teaching writing at MIT?? I’m so jealous! Anyway, Díaz was pretty hilarious after getting over the initial awkwardness. It was fantastic hearing him read from a copy of his book–he totally caught a typo while he was reading to the audience, haha. The excerpts were so juicy and I already feel like I know the characters and it makes me antsy just waiting for the book to mofuckin’ arrive!

The Q & A section was really short but he definitely gave really thoughtful answers, which I appreciated. Also, he encouraged people to just steal from others who are more talented, which pretty much validates my world view, hahaha. I mean obviously for school work I’m not gonna plagiarize, but nothing is ever original anyway, so when I feel like making up stories I just riff on stuff I dig. He also mentioned that you can’t please everyone so you shouldn’t be afraid to take a risk. Which makes sense, even if someone dislikes what you write, at least it’s good to get a strong reaction, right?

I don’t know, I wish I could just talk to this dude forever and ever. Isn’t that what Holden Caulfield said? That his favorite books are the ones that make him want to meet the authors and shake their hands. Something like that.


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