Multiple Enthusiasms

Infinite jest. Excellent fancy. Flashes of merriment.

Tag: junot diaz

Just ending what was, technically, my last weekend in Hollywood. My sister is coming to town on Thursday, and then the following weekend I have lots of grading, and then the one following that I’ll pretty much be out of here.

Which is pretty cool, so far as I’m concerned.

In the meantime, my sinuses clogged, my throat closed up, and my voice dropped into the sort of croak you might expect from a deaf frog. It’s not a full-on croak, but rather one that’s vaguely heard croaking and is reproducing a close facsimile.

I spent most of the weekend cleaning and packing. In and out of the post office, and when I took breathers, I read The Brief, Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao.

I don’t get it. It opened well; the first several dozen pages were awesome; Diaz caught a definite voice and rhythm, to merge into a brilliant, electric patois.

Until it shifted. My problem is mainly that the parts concerning Oscar are awesome, but there are other sections dealing with Oscar’s sister and mother that drag.

It reminded me most of Dracula. I loved the first section of Stoker’s novel, which purported to being Jonathan Harker’s diary, and then the rest of it became “epistolary,” which I put into quotes because it was written as a mess of letters from a dozen people to other people, but they all sounded exactly the same, which was suspiciously like Stoker.

Similar in Wao: the first bit crackles, but then the tones/voices change and the book collapses like a flan in a cupboard. Diaz’s writing lags, while at the same time taking on the dreaded voice so many creative writing programs seem to idolize.

I’ll be returning it tomorrow with nearly a hundred pages left unread.

In the meantime, I’ll be mainlining orange juice and freebasing Alka-Seltzer Plus Cold & Cough.

Jhumpa Lahiri’s Unaccustomed Earth debuts at #1 on the New York Times hardcover fiction bestsellers list.

I’ve read a number of people express surprise, I think mostly because it’s a short story collection (short story collections generally don’t perform nearly so well as novels). There are a couple of reasons I’m not really surprised, though, the first of which is that Lahiri has come further into consciousness, this past year, as a result of the mainstream success of The Namesake. True, it’s a movie that received some positive reviews and probably only had a decent-sized audience, at best, but it starred Kal Penn, who had a brilliant run on House, M.D. for a while (and will again in a few weeks, when the show returns to the air). Before that, Lahiri was known most well to literary readers, and I think that helped open her audience.

The second is: considering the list, there really isn’t much else out. A couple of bigger names (Grisham, for one), but The Appeal‘s been out for nearly a month already.

(the third is: why have I never heard of The Dresden Files? Anyone read any? Are they worth picking up? Sounds interesting)

Also last week, Junot Diaz’s The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao won the Pulitzer for fiction. I ended up picking it up; I’m about 150 pages in, and so far, it’s not bad. I’m actually rather pleased with its selection; Denis Johnson’s Tree of Smoke was named as a finalist, but I didn’t like any of the excerpts I read.

Finally, really close to home for me, USC’s MPW program names Brighde Mullins as new director. Not too much in the way of thought for this one–once I got to the program, I kind of put my head down and trucked through my classes. We had interim, acting leadership, but it was largely academic, not professional writers. This saddened me, as that was the main reason I chose the program, and I’m glad it’s back under the leadership of a writer (Mullins is a poet and playwright).

And now I’m done the program, so her leading it really won’t affect me one way or the other. I wish both her and the program the best, though, and leave it with the hope that they continue to follow their strength, as a professional writing program, and avoid the pitfalls that so many “fine arts” programs seem to come with.

And last but not least (no, wait; maybe it is least), I realized I was doing nothing over at et cetera, because from this end, I’m submitting, which means there’s no news. And then I realized I didn’t want it to just be about me. So I’m opening it up to include literary news/reviews/interviews for highlight but about which I haven’t much to say (unlike the above three newspoints, obviously). The first new post concerns Jo Rowling taking the stand in the Harry Potter Lexicon case.