Junot Diaz warns Midwest of Fuku

WHAT: Junot Diaz WHEN: Wednesday, Oct. 29 7:30 p.m. WHERE: Coffman Union Theater TICKETS: Free. 612.626.9513 ThereâÄôs not a lot of fiction that includes references to obscure comics and footnotes about Caribbean history that Americans are too lazy to know about. But Junot Diaz does just that and manages to make it entertaining too. Those who are fans and those who are curious now have a reason to rejoice: The light-hearted lore-master himself will be reading in Minneapolis at the end of the month. Diaz is the author of âÄúThe Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao,âÄù the story of a nerdy Dominican immigrant who settles in New Jersey. In 2007, âÄúOscar WaoâÄù won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and National Book Critics Circle Award, among numerous other prizes. Recently, A&E spoke with the author about literary fame and what heâÄôs been up to since winning the Pulitzer. How has your life changed since winning the Pulitzer last year? Gee whiz, man. [Had I not won] I would have spent these last six months trying to come up with something new, instead IâÄôve been doing a lot of interviews, and a lot of readings. ItâÄôs been wonderful, but at the same time, man, itâÄôs a lot of work. I didnâÄôt expect it to be this much work. Do you feel like your writing has changed at all since winning the Pulitzer? Yeah, I havenâÄôt written a word. [Laughs] So thatâÄôs the biggest difference, you just havenâÄôt written? Yeah, I havenâÄôt had any time. ItâÄôs wild, you know. But it is what it is. I think thereâÄôs a billion people out there who would kill to have these problems. So youâÄôre not currently working on anything? Not at all, bro. And you teach at MIT right? Exactly. I do my best to keep my studentsâÄô papers coming back to them. How do you like teaching? I love my students. I know that sounds crazy. I really enjoy working at this place. I mean, if I had $20 million I wouldnâÄôt teach, but since I donâÄôt live in a fantasy land, this is really cool. Do you feel like it gets in the way of your writing? No, I wouldnâÄôt say that. A friend of mine said it really smart: Teaching gets in the way of reading, not necessarily writing. When youâÄôre reading so many papers, you canâÄôt read on your own as much. When did you first begin writing? I was about a senior in high school, going into college. But as a senior in high school I was just writing this kind of maudlin, emotional, poetry-type crap. But once I got into college I started thinking about it seriously. So which writers would you say influenced you the most then? No idea, man. But I know which writers I really loved. ItâÄôs so hard to judge influence, because sometimes people we donâÄôt like have bigger influence than people we do like. But I know who I liked. I loved the writer Patrick Chamoiseau . He wrote a novel called âÄúTexaco.âÄù A brilliant novel. I loved Toni Morrison , Leslie Marmon Silko . I loved a writer called Edward Rivera . What other kind of art, music or movies did you like? As a kid, I loved Japanese cinema. I had seen like every single Kurosawa film. Every one. I loved Kurosawa. A lot of music. A lot of merengue . I grew up on hip-hop. I mean, mine was the first hip-hop generation. The thing about being 40, versus being 25, is that you donâÄôt have the same amount of time for music. When I was 19 I knew the name of every song, every record. Now I donâÄôt know shit. Are you surprised by the success of your work? Yeah, of course, man. ItâÄôs surprising. But believe me, you donâÄôt work on a book for 11 years because you love applause. I think itâÄôs stunning that anyone reads anything, and IâÄôm really happy. Believe me, no one is more astonished than I am that a book about a Dominican nerd and a crazy Dominican family has done this well. So when you were writing the book, did you think much about how readers would respond? I was definitely not thinking about who was going to clap. But I did think about audience in the most narrow sense of the word âÄî who the speaker of the book thinks theyâÄôre telling the story to. When you first start writing a book, what are some of the steps you go through? ItâÄôs a grind. You wake up, you get to the desk by 8 oâÄôclock, you work âÄòtil noon, and you call it a day. Some days youâÄôre just working on story points, some days youâÄôre working on characters, or youâÄôre working on the structure of a chapter. ItâÄôs a strange process, like none of tactics youâÄôve used before necessarily apply now. So, itâÄôs a bizarre, weird-ass ballgame to be in. When I think of my process, it always has a lot to do with a ton of reading and a ton of writing. Do you have a favorite topic to write about? Well, I seem to like writing about masculinity and people who suffer apocalyptic experiences, whether it be immigration or violence. Has your family always been supportive of your writing? No, I wouldnâÄôt even say that they knew I was writing. ItâÄôs always been a solitary pursuit for me. I never really wanted to get other people involved with it. In general my family has been very supportive of me as a person though. Since people began reading your work, have you become more guarded about what you write? No, I assume everybody is like my friends, and that they donâÄôt really read, and that if they do read, they probably get like one chapter into it and then quit. [Laughs.] Anything else youâÄôd like to say? Oh, God no. Well, in the end, interviews, prizes, all of that is really just a way to obscure what really makes art valuable. In the end, a personâÄôs work encounters a person at a very private, beautiful place. ThatâÄôs what I find beautiful about this âÄî being able to write a work that binds people all over the globe. And it binds them intimately. ItâÄôs really nice.