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: http://www.junotdiaz.com/tour.html 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.