Monday, November 24, 2008

Junot Diaz rocks!

Well, tonight I visited NYC to see Junot Diaz read from his Pulitzer-prize winning book "The Brief Wonderous Life of Oscar Wao," at the Solas Bar on 9th Street. The place was packed, packed, PACKED! And after listening to Mr. Diaz and then meeting him afterwards for the book-signing, I can understand why.

First off, he is one of the most down-to-earth people I've ever met and he's quite the funny guy, which I think that can be reasonably assumed after reading his work. When he was reading, his voice was very animated, so there was no droning to lull the audience to sleep. It was also quite the experience to hear how the author intended the words to sound, too.

After the reading, he took questions from the audience. The Q&A part was kind of hard to hear because Solas was small and very crowded, but there were some things that made it through. For example, he thinks that how America teaches its children to read is completely wrong. (He's originally from the Dominican Republic and came to the U.S. in 1976.) The reason is that he believes reading is like developing a muscle. As an example, he said the American method is like if someone who had never physically exercised before approached a group of jocks and said they had a interest in exercise. The jocks would respond with something along the lines of "well, that's great! Tomorrow we go on a 14-mile run." Then they would force that person to run it and if they didn't successfully, they would fail. Mr. Diaz said that his best friend, who is Japanese, said that most of Japan's literacy rate can be attributed to comic books. That comment got a laugh, but he said that kidding aside, that it was true. His theory for successfully teaching children to read is to start simple and gradually build that reading muscle, and also that the material should be interesting to the students.

After the Q&A part, he signed copies of his book. Mr. Diaz was very warm and friendly and took the time to speak with everyone, as well as autograph the books. He also allowed pictures to be taken with his fans. Yes, the wait was ridiculous, but it was worth it. How often does one get to be that close to a Pulitzer Prize winner? Hopefully, breathing some of the same air will help my writing!

If some of you are interested in going to a reading, the following is a link to his website that has his touring dates and locations: I strongly recommend that you go. One thing though -- he curses a lot, so if you are easily offended...well, maybe you could put that aside for an evening.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Cool info

I'm not sure if everyone or anyone knows who Junot Diaz is, but he is going to be giving a reading this coming Monday, November 24 at 7:30 p.m. at the Solas Bar in NYC. There is no admission fee. Here's a link for more info: Hope to see some of you there!

A Really Big "Whew!"

So…I’m always a bit afraid at the beginning of a semester when I see an assigned novel on the syllabus. It’s not that I do not like to read. I love to read. In fact, I used to get in trouble all through school for reading in class (my stuff, not what the teacher assigned), I love the smell of bookstores and wish I could bottle it, and I get very anxious if I’m getting to the end of a book and there is no back-up literature at hand. Sorry, going off on a tangent – my point is that in one of my other classes I saw a *yikes!* novel on the syllabus and let out a sigh of resignation. But surprisingly, I really like the book…and I’m having trouble putting it down.

It’s Harbor by Lorraine Adams. The complex story is about an illegal immigrant from Algeria who stows away on a ship to get into the United States via Boston. The author’s imagery is superb in that I get a full sense of where the characters are from the mood, smells, sounds and physical descriptions. Harbor is also told from the point of view of the main character and the style is such that the reader is experiencing simultaneously what the character is experiencing; the reader only knows what the character knows at that moment. Adams captures that fear, anxiousness, and excitement of someone coming to a new land with hopes of a better life. There is a thread of mystery through out the story as I am trying to figure out what is the main character’s purpose here in the U.S. Is he looking for refuge, or is he a terrorist? Was he initially here for a terrorist plan but is having second thoughts? In the meantime, there are plenty of other things going on and the relationships are complex between the various characters: illegal and legal immigrants, relatives, security and government officials, criminals, husbands, wives, and lovers. Adams also seems to have very good insight on the isolation of a foreigner, as well as the assimilation process.

So, I cannot believe I’m actually saying this, but I’m recommending a book that was actually assigned in a class!