Thought it was time we did another of these.
Picked this one from the suggestions in the My Community thread. Feel free to suggest other stories with links for future threads. (For the record I couldn't find Shirley Jackson's The Lottery anywhere online.)
Here's the link:
One of the craft questions with this one is: was Diaz successful in bringing something fresh to the Mrs. Robinson trope? I'm also curious how everyone felt about the second-person POV.
Aside from the stellar voice, what impresses me most with this short story is how many years it spans without seeming rushed.
You know I hadn't even considered the Mrs Robinson trope when I read this and I'm not sure I've read enough of this trope to evaluate whether this is something fresh. It didn't strike me a being same old same old, but like I said, that could be down to what I've read. Could also be that because the voice and the emotion are so strong in this it doesn't matter. I enjoyed the second person voice, pulls you in to character, directly relates every emotion to the reader.
I also think the lack of speech marks/ quotations on the dialogue works really well, it flows and you never get lost. This is the first story I've read by Diaz, so I don't know if this is one of his traits.
The themes I picked up on were: escape, fear, dreams, and being trapped (I'm sure there are more) which all kind of tangle nicely together in different ways through the course of the story.
And yeah, it doesn't feel rushed but spans nicely across the years. Also I don't speak Spanish, but the story still works. I have more to say but it will have to wait, I have to go to work now.
LOVE this line:
You were at the age where you could fall in love with a girl over an expression, a gesture. That's what happened with your girlfriend Paloma - she stooped to pick up her purse, and your heart flew out of you.
Junot Diaz was here in Tokyo a couple of weeks ago for Lit Fest, and came last year as well. He's damned smart (as you'd probably guess, winning that genius award and all), but what really strikes you is how incredibly warm and receptive and generous he is to everyone. He's very laid back, casual, but has a really expansive, inclusive atmosphere. Before his panels he was always out in the crowds mingling with people. He impressed me a lot.
And interestingly, his writing voice is pretty much how he talks.
His collection Drown came out when I was a student, just getting into short stories and it totally blew me away--one of the all time collections for sure. I still like him, but have kind of cooled on his voice. I thought Oscar Wao was an excellent book, but it wasn't really a favorite.
I remember reading this story, but will have to read it again to say anything about it. I should have time this weekend.
I always like hearing nice stuff like that about authors :)
So Drown is a good place to start then?
My experience with his writing, while limited, is that his voice is consistent, often employing second person POV, mixing slang into his expansive vocabulary, and adding in small quantities of Spanish. This is in most of his work.
I'd say, Em, you can thus start most anywhere. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao impressed me. Not to mention it won the Pulitzer.
Read this in hard copy, Voodoo_em, and I liked it for a lot of different reasons; didn't see her as a Mrs. Robinson, per se.
I found this article on author Lydia Davis in NYer interesting; she's pretty radical, IMHO. Did not know she was married to Auster in another life; guess I should be paying more attention to author bios. Anyway, here's the link:
I think I screwed up with this link; sorry. I found her vocal review of another author's book very good (especially for her discretion in not naming him), for anyone who's interested in some excellent tips in reviewing or editing. She's batting 100% as far as I'm concerned. Her brevity in her writing can be a little disconcerting, though. What an amazing life she's had!
She does seem to have the same slight indifference to her children that I've read/seen in other successful females writers. Maybe I'm seeing fault where there is none; I don't think any parent, dad or mom, should give their own lives up in raising their children. Too many times I've seen a marriage and/or a person have nothing left when that child grows up and leaves. Just don't let them leave angry with you! They could be the ones who pick out your nursing home! (Or God forbid, send you over a cliff in your wheelchair when no one's watching! -- my son says both of these things to me all the time when I give him what-for; a thankless business, being a single parent, sometimes.) I do love him though!
I agree Vonnegut on the time spanning--for me it's really what makes this story work. I don't really get into it too much until it jumps out of the distant past and shifts from this coming of age/Mrs. Robinson/round the way neighborhood drama and feels way bigger. As soon as school ends and he's stuck in the neighborhood, works at the steel mill, you sense something has changed in their relationship, this sadness enters, the whole weight of her life (or lack of weight) is suddenly felt. When she shows up alone at his college graduation again in the red dress, it's heart breaking. Also this gets me:
"Sometimes after you leave her apartment you walk out to the landfill where you and your brother played as children and sit on the swings. This is also the spot where Mr. del Orbe threatened to shoot your brother in the nuts. Go ahead, Rafa said, and then my brother here will shoot you in the pussy. Behind you in the distance hums New York City. The world, you tell yourself, will never end."
There's a lot in that shift from fearing the world is about to end, to feeling like it will never end--depressing. Right after they finish high school and his girl goes to college and breaks up, the whole universe of the story changes.
Love the language all the way through--love the descriptions where she's at the pool, the school of eels--that he can take this slangy neighborhood talk and make it dazzling is crazy.
Voodoo, I do think Drown is the best place to start as it first introduces these same characters. Diaz uses this same family, Yunior and his brother Rafa, same mother, in all his fiction, and the world started with Drown, then Oscar Wao goes deeper. I agree with Vonnegut, Oscar Wao is a very impressive novel. Both are definitely worth reading. I haven't read This is How You Lose Her yet, but will eventually.