Friday, September 24, 2010

A wondrous Junot Diaz speaks at Davidson College

My plan was to jot a few quotes as Junot Diaz ("The Brief, Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao") spoke Thursday night at Davidson College. I ended up scribbling the whole time.
The Pulitzer Prize-winning author, dressed in a black hoodie, jeans and tennis shoes, was provocative and irreverent as he discussed his Dominican-immigrant background, his writing process and MFA programs.
Some highlights:
On cancer, which plays a role in his novel:
His older brother was diagnosed with cancer when Diaz was 12. "Cancer pulls you out of the normal stream of life," he said. "You reside on what I call Cancer Planet. It becomes a different reality altogether."
On mixing humor and violence in his work:
"In real life it gets all mixed up. People even in extreme situations crack jokes. We don't live our life in genre. My family didn't stop laughing because s--- was hard."
On mixing Spanish and English in his novel:
"These two languages have been in bed with each other for 500 years."
On people who find his work offensive:
"The truth rarely gets you friends," he said. "Really, if you want friends, be a f------ lawyer."
On becoming a writer:
"I kind of grew up in a world where if you weren't awesome at something right away, you sucked. The thought didn't enter my mind for a long time that I might be amazing at something I find very difficult."
On whether MFA creative writing programs produce cookie-cutter writing:
"If your s--- is whack, it ain't the program's fault."