Oscar’s write-up is here.
One of many things Junot Díaz discussed at this past Friday evening’s event was “geek culture,” and specifically, comic books/graphic novels and science fiction/fantasy. It’s in these literary margins where we actually see discussion of genocide, dictatorship, imperialism, human slavery, the complexities of “good” versus “evil.” As well, consider how much exploration of humanity’s relationships with their gods/deities we see in these “geek culture” genres. In mainstream contemporary American fiction, says Díaz, these major human themes are absent, and so how can we learn from mainstream contemporary American fiction anything about our humanity or our human condition? (As a participant of geek culture, I very much appreciate this; I think of the genre prejudice which deems or dismisses even the best of comic book/graphic novel or sci-fi/fantasy as “overwrought” or melodramatic. I think about what I have learned from reading, for example, a lot of Tolkien (LOTR, The Hobbit, The Silmarillion), or Gaiman’s The Sandman, or even Mike Carey’s Lucifer, or from watching so much Star Trek.)
I want to add that in American poetry’s “margins,” we also see discussions of these historical human themes, and that poetry itself is marginal to contemporary American literature. Anyway, I very much dig this discussion of the fluff which we popularly insist upon propagating.
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Finally, on multilingualism, Díaz tells us there is no “Spanglish” in The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, and what it is instead, is code switching, in which the participants in a conversation move back and forth between languages, using words from either language for the specificity or accuracy of the word. So I am interested in the details of the differences, as for myself, I sometimes tend to use the terms “Taglish” and “code switching” interchangeably and in tandem, and I think it’s because both Taglish and code-switching happen in the course of interaction with my family. Díaz’s point here, is that even the most venerated of American book review venues either do not know the difference between the two, do not know that there are these different relationships which we have with language that can be discussed in detail and to such levels of specificity, and so quickly gloss over any use of language that is not monolingual.