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Literature

Five highlights from novelist Junot Diaz’s* appearance in LV

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Junot Diaz
Molly O'Donnell

1. Diaz recounted how he once mistook a turtle shell hanging on a wall for an intruder. After physically attacking it, he realized he had severely injured himself. The good thing: His girlfriend was impressed by his unintentional machismo.

2. His description of Dominican cultural idiosyncrasies as “putting the good liquor at the back of the cabinet,” making his work accessible on a higher level to Dominicans than others. Diaz said most Dominicans ask him, “How the hell do people read your shit and understand it?”

3. On the suppression of critical acclaim or just notice for marginal authors, Diaz said, “I wonder if I would’ve been read at all if I were a queer Haitian woman.”

4. “I’d rather go back to delivering pool tables than write a book too quickly,” he said. He hopes to release a book every 10 years or so, unlike many writers, who put out a book a year. Letting his work steep for the long burn allows it to take on a more significant meaning.

5. On reductive labels like Dominican-American, Diaz says, “Tell your friend he’s only one, small thing and see how much he wants to chill with you after that.” –Molly O’Donnell

*The Pulitzer-winning author of The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao participated in a panel titled “Blurring Borders,” sponsored by the Black Mountain Institute, on April 6.

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