The Time Junot Diaz Talked At Me

junot diaz 2.jpgTwo years ago, Pulitzer Prize-winning Junot Diaz stood in front of a packed auditorium and read to us a passage from his book, This is How You Lose Her. It’s the story where Yunior cheats on his girlfriend, Alma, who has a “long tender horse neck” and grew up in Hoboken, “part of the Latino community that got its heart burned out in the eighties”.

Diaz read slowly. Enunciated. And we were captivated.

Except I didn’t know who he was. Someone in the news room just said he was famous. I didn’t put two and two together to realize that this Junot Diaz was the Junot Diaz, author of Drown, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. So the significance of seeing–being read to by–Junot Diaz in the flesh did not occur to me as I pointed my massive camera towards him. Click. He said something to me about him not doing anything particularly cool. So why was I pointing the camera all up in his face? (Hey, I’m just here with the newspaper) Looking back, though, he talked at me. 

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Diaz talked about collective student insecurity. And fragmented activism, and what to do about it. He talked about a whole slew of things that I jotted down in Notes even though I wasn’t even the one writing an article about him.

I googled him later and then it hit me–he’d written the Cheater’s Guide to Love, the one I read in the New Yorker summer of 2013. The first time I read the story I awoke drenched in sweat and read it again and again. Some of the metaphors I repeated over and over, tucked into my mind, then toyed with for years afterwards.

I write this as I finish reading This is How You Lose Her for the sixth (or seventh) time.

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Something Uncanny

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There’s something called the uncanny valley, “the hypothesis that human replicas that appear almost, but not exactly, like real human beings elicit feelings of eeriness and revulsion.” It’s the intersection between realness and artificiality that unnerves and disturbs.  The Uncanny Valley’s always intrigued me–what’s it about creepy humanoid likeness that disgusts, fascinates, weirds us out?

35mm film. Processed and developed by hand.