I saw Junot Diaz talkin’ about stuff a couple nights ago! He curses a lot and I think he was super neat. Like, I want to apply all sorts of embarrassing adjectives to him, like: “inspiring” or (oh god) “wise.” Also, he used the word “shit” (or “bullshit”) at least 14 times, and the word “fuck” at least 52 times. I say “at least” because I only started keeping track like 15 minutes into the event, and also because there were a bunch of times when I got distracted trying to write down quotes and wasn’t keeping track well enough. Here are some of my notes, only cleaned up/edited a very tiny amount. (A lot of them included things like “BOOM, DUDE,” written in bubble letters, and little hearts and stars and stuff. I mostly edited those things out. Mostly.)
- “It’s a miserable night.” – Got a laugh. “No, serious – it’s miserable.” – Got a bigger one. Turns out when you’re famous, you get funny
- Re: arts education in New Jersey public schools: “I had access to teachers who wanted to be artists.” – but then quickly corrected himself: “…to teachers who were artists.” But <3 the idea of the utility of H.S. teachers who are failed or failing or struggling artists – that somehow that’s a necessary and needed role model, as well – weekend warriors or Sunday painters or whatever. Bowling leagues.
- Biothegmatic? [As in: he used this word. I did not know what it meant. I wrote down a good number of those words, honestly.]
- “My mom is like a Fremen from Doom. Waste words, waste water.” [I don't really know what that means exactly? But I know it's nerdy.]
- “Any time Dominicans clap about being Dominican, I’m like: ‘Here comes fucking trouble.’”
- “Realism is an artifact that disciplines reality in various ways.” & ”Realism is really great for some old simplistic bourgeois shit.” [That second one was boxed, with a bunch of hearts drawn all around it.]
- “We need multiple lenses to see our complex realities.” [This still commenting on the need for sci-fi, comic books, etc other genre forms of writing.] [He also made this FANTASTIC point about how all big sci-fi stories have a storyline where people are bred. "[If you only ever read realistic fiction, you'll never understand] the reality of what it’s like to be descended from a project of people who were bred.” What a great fucking observation, right??]
- [On the embededness and entrenchedness of white supremacy:] “If it was like five white people hanging out, we would have fucking shot them already.” [Also: I loved that he kept calling it "white supremacy" instead of "racism" or something. That old-fashioned word sounds so much worse. Sounds more obvious and ridiculous. Kind of makes it more powerful? Like calling it "misogyny" instead of "sexism" or something? Or "sexism" instead of "chauvinism?"] [Also, more on white supremacy:] ”It’s not a person. It’s not going to like you just because you leave it alone.” & ”It’s not something that can be appeased. It’s not a volcano god that will leave you alone if you don’t mention it.”
- [On the sudden increase in the number of creative writing MFAs being obtained:] “You would think we’re having a literary war with an alien planet: if we don’t produce four million short stories every year, we are fucking fucked.”
- [His time up there basically ended with a really long, really touching, really heart-wrenching comparison of racism and sexism to the story of Lord of the Rings. "It has no sympathy and it asks you to have no sympathy. Isn't that the entire story of Lord of the Rings?"
- [And then at one point he couldn't remember how to pronounce the name of some Anarchist? And he was trying to remember and he was sort of asking the room about it and they were shouting names of, like, philosophers or whatever at him, and he was like, "No no, that one dude..." and it was just like 20 seconds of a roomful of Ivy League students and professors and a Pulitzer Prize-winning author trying to remember the name of some person who I THINK ended up being Mikhail Bakunin. It was...great.]
Anyway. That’s all. He was neat. I want to grow up to be a famous badass someday. The end.