Hello again! Been ages, I know. Classes at MIT started this week, and right now I'm at the first CMS Colloquim of the year, featuring MIT's own Junot Diaz, author of
The Brief Wondorous Life of Oscar Wao
, which I literally finished* 5 minutes ago. It's an excellent book, it got the damn Pulitzer, read it. http://www.nytimes.com/2007/09/04/books/04diaz.html
Now, Liveblogging, as messy as that is.
Full house, glad I got here early. It's a small, intimate room, every seat is a good seat.
Junot doesn't think he can talk for a full 40 minutes. He paraphrases David Lynch, when asked to talk about his work, "Fool, if I could talk about it, I wouldn't make fucking movies."
People ask about the book and say "how much is autobiographical" and "tell us about the dominican republic" and other questions which.
He draws a sketch of the DR, and says if anyone sent it home hsi xenophobic relatives would say tit was part of a conspiracy to render more land unto Haiti than in theirs.
Deep History of the New World.
These deep historical activities gave rise to our present, but they are not part of any country's myth, they get erased. There's no place in the Americas where you can't find artifacts of these things. The project began in mexico city, which is a survivor culture compared to DR. Some of Mexico's indigenous culture survived and adapted.
Junot's grandfather had a tiny coffee "plantation", and you couldn't dig without finding little artifacts of the past, and he'd ask who these artifacts came from, and he'd say "oh they're all dead", which had a big effect on the sensitive little nerd kid.
He was living in a haunted house, the owners were gone, there's a secret history no one wants to talk about. There was some lip service now and then to talking about it, but it only reinforced the silence. Child Junot was like a white apologist conservative ever who wanted to disprove the horrors, disprove his grandfather, because it'd be easier to sleep, prove that there wasn't a conspiracy of silence, that such horrors were an an exception.
Everyone should read: Victoria Nelson's
The Secret life of Puppets
. About our culture and how we repress things. chapters on Lovecraft.
These issues of genocide, slavery, extinction, were everywhere in genre, in comic books and sci fi and fantasy, Nelson argues what is difficult to deal with culture deposits in the margins. to understand a culture, don't read the central texts, read the marginalia. at the periphery is where you find the heart of things. LOTR, issues of dictatorship and authorship in Dune.
Needed to find a way to deploy genre, not just the style and strategy but the authors and books themselves.
(Also read: The Heart of Darkness.) It lit the way for Junot. What's the genre of the framing story? Sailor stories? Travel? Diary? No, "The club story". very familiar genre that has gone out of style. At the hunter's club, did I ever tell you about the sasquatch I shot? *flashback*. One of the things darkness does is mark this genre that goes out of style. What does Marlow do throughout the book? He goes on a trip to the blank places on the map. In the end he returns with knowledge of the real world, and he can't stand to see the people living in their european city and he can't communicate with them. People call him crazy the same way you'll get called crazy calling up kiby's new gods and saying it's the history of america. this idea drove him.
wanted a book that was a shapeshifter. mythical dominican creature, the baka, shapeshifter, no one knows the original shape. junto used to bother grandparents about the original shape. wanted that depending on the reader the book would take on a different shape.
in a story if you encounter something that could be described as fantastic, there are two choices. either you discover it's the uncanny, there is some explanation, it's Scooby Doo. the other option: the Marvelous, it's actually magic or something.
Rick Moody's novel _The Ice Storm_, no one except henry has read it, he sighs a lot at us. in it the characters are divided into the fantastic four? Abelard is Reed Richards, Mister Fantastic, he'll bend anyway to fit in, he's a super genius. Oscar as The Thing, his strength is in his faith. Lola is Human Torch, always burning. Belicia is the (pre-feminsit update) the Invisible Girl, force fields that make her impenetrable. Who's missing? The Narrator. You ahve to know nerd shit to figure out this part. people are going to read this and focus on the history, btu epople are going to miss the clear codes on how to read this. Not Stan Lee, like Geoff suggests. throughout the novel he takes on the shape and personality of the each of the fantastic four. he's super scroll, and superscroll is a villain. greatest fear of this novel is that of dictatorship, of what happened int he DR, where only one person speaks. The books is arguing that Yunior is far more disturbing than he lets on, at every chance he has betrayed these characters, so why wouldn't he do so in the retelling?
Not even the nerds wanted to decode the nerd texts, so he got fucked, but it's okay.
the second novel that guided this was _Dune_. Idea of a long term breeding experiment, which in dune is for the production of a messiah. in the new world they bred humans for labor, and everyone once in awhile there was some religous concern.
the difficulty men have looking into women's rules. discussion of the brecthel test. women deal with men's stories all the time.
And now Junot's far enough into Dune mythology that I don't really understand and can't spell the words. Something about being able to tell women's stories and men's stories simultaneously.
5:52, and Junot says that is enough, this isn't what he talks Anyone of his half-stoned grad students can put together and argument more coherent and penetrating than this.
* Never had a magical realist stage, despite being from DR. He never really got into it.
The book asks: would you rather be marlow, who knows what is really goign on,t he terrible truth, or the ignorant people walkign around the city? what are we supposed to do with these brains of ours? what are we supposed to do with this collosal privledge that we get to travel and to know.
Q: why use the contemporary DR?
A: doesn't matter. could have use 1920s south. no matter what the fuck you plug in from the new world, you just ahve tos et the codes right, and these issues are so easy, they're right there.
in novels you have to work from multiple marching instructions, multiple codes.
Junot was in ebay bidding wars with one jerk on ebay over getting all roleplaying games from 1980-1989.
look at the last 100 first novels that have been published, and look at the last 100 comic books published, and see how many of each talk about these three issues, genocide, slavery, extinction.
novels are too complicated to be understood by any one reader. novels create community, whatever you don't understand propels you to find someone else who can understand it.
henry says there is an increasing amount of "fanboy lit", mostly written by white upper class guys, on henry's first reading of oscar wao he reflected on how this is about people who are not normally allowed to be fans.
junot says everytime he goes to a convention, despite the number of brown bodies there are, how ancient white the structure of conventions are. white male. white masculinity claims these spaces, claims being fanboys, and there's a lot of racism and sexism.
Being a person of color is a genre already. (I wish I had anything intelligent or interestign to say about race and fandom. gender and fandom is much easier for me to talk about).
_colonialism and the rise of science fiction_ by ridier?
* okay except for that one bit.