Author, Author -- Junot Diaz
Fiction writer Junot Diaz comes to the CityLit Festival this Saturday to read from his 2008 novel, The Brief, Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. He took a few minutes from his busy schedule to talk to Read Street about his lifelong obsession with the written word (a longer Baltimore Sun story is here).
His Literary Baptism: Mrs. Crowell, the librarian of the Parlin Elementary School in New Jersey, encouraged my love of reading. When I found the library, I felt as though I'd stumbled onto Ali Baba's cave. I'd walk four miles to take out books. She's even let me photocopy lists of books in print, so I could find new titles by my favorite authors.
Favorite Childhood Book: John Christopher's Tripod Series. In the books, the earth is ruled by aliens in giant tripods. When kids get to be about 14, a strange little cap is put on their heads, and then they're considered adults. It's a form of mind control, and it's a metaphor that taps into the fears and anxieties of a lot of young people.
Famous Author Who He Just Doesn't Get: I never badmouth authors, because I don't want to do anything to discourage reading. But if I had to pick a writer whose reputation won't be dented by my poor opinion, I'd have to say Ayn Rand, author of Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead. My friends and I joke that white people love those books, but we just don't get them.
Guilty Pleasure Book: I make my guilty pleasures my central pleasures. I was reading this horror book by John Skipp and Craig Spector, The Light at the End. My ex-girlfriend picked it up from my nightstand and said, "This is just ridiculous." I have no shame when it comes to reading.
Audio books -- cheating or reading? I don't have an opinion because I haven't really listened to very many audio books, except for The Iliad and The Odyssey. That was amazing, because they were originally written to be heard and not read. Books on tape replicates that aural tradition.