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01/28/2009

Comments

ephemerist

Interesting. I too just finished the book (for, gulp, "book club" where I'm the only geigh amongst married young(ish) moms from the outer boroughs who like to drank, so the discussion for this one should be fun) and thought it did skew towards entertainment, It was certainly a unique and singular reading experience. Did it gloss over the grime and lingering despair of that particular Washington Heights experience? Prolly, though stopping short at times of being Runyonesque (rather, I suppose, what Damon Runyon would have written had he been Dominican and living in the Heights in the latter half of the twentieth century). But yeah, I was happy to find those heaps of awards lavished on the book were not unearned.

kirsten

I read this really great essay that talked about "cabinet of wonders" writers, which included Zadie Smith and DF Wallace, which was ultimately critical of that dancing so hard capaciousness. You got the feeling that after awhile that it was a distraction from some deeper quieter emotional exploration. I know the author personally and I haven't read the book because I know I'm just going to use it as a gloss for what I know about him or as a bitchy jealous exercise of an unpublished writer looking for "tells" in the work of a greatly recognized talent. But I know that this high low culture and comic book divigating are the reasons that people decided they like or don't like the book.

A. Taveras

Maybe it was more Paterson than WaHi...or maybe that 'true despondence and bleak melancholy that clings to the streets' is an aspect of some of the streets up here, but not all. Young homebody ghettonerds like Oscar, ( and myself and Junot?) prob don't read that melancholy into our situation as strongly as those looking from the outside in might guess. Even when our noses were out of WEB OF SPIDER-MAN #87 or Asimov and we were exposed to the grime, noise and the tigueres ... well these books were proof there were other things. So what I'm saying is that I'm glad Junot didn't make this that kind of story. And anyway we got a taste of a living situation that calls for more genuine despair than even 80s WaHi, life in the last years of El Jefe.

rgaines

Authors write about how they experience and see the world through the eyes of the character. In an article by Matthew Gallaway, a Washington Heights resident (Washington Heights is near Paterson, NJ where Oscar is said to live), in response to reading The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, Gallaway says,“… we never felt that he (Diaz) completely captured the true despondence and bleak melancholy that clings to the streets of Washington Heights…” Now guessing from his picture on the website and extensive vocabulary, now I may be wrong but, Gallaway probably didn’t grow up in, or even around the ghettos of New York City and therefore isn’t fully qualified to make a statement like this. What he’s comparing Washington Heights too is a suburban life that is much safer and much more formal and typical then the lives of poor, inner city kids that grow up with violence and danger around them everyday. Now reading a little about the Diaz’s childhood growing up in Parlin, NJ, right outside of NYC, his perspective is that of a child in the inner city and is therefore more accurate then someone’s (Gallaway) that moved to Washington Heights as an adult. Another reason Diaz didn’t make Paterson, NJ into this rugged, low-life place is because he was writing the story about a resident of Paterson, Oscar, and Oscar’s perspective of life isn’t as realistic as most people. Oscar lives in a fantasy world that he enjoys getting lost in with his comic books and sci-fi novels, so of coarse he is somewhat oblivious to the harshness of the outside world, or maybe he just chooses to ignore it.

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Gods final
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Music: Death Culture at Sea and Saturnine

Listen or download songs and records from my indie-rock past with Saturnine here and Death Culture at Sea here.

Music Video: Remembrance of Things Past

Watch the rock opera Remembrance of Things Past written and performed by Saturnine and Frances Gibson, starring Bennett Madison and Sheila McClear.

Video: The Chaos Detective

The Chaos Detective is a series about a man searching for 'identity' as he completes assignments from a mysterious organization. Watch the first episode (five parts) on YouTube.

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