Junot Diaz read at Powell's the other night and no way was I going to miss that. He had on a black fleece zipped all the way up and kept tucking his chin into it and kind of fiddling with the zipper, and arty glasses and good jeans (black rinse). Look, I took one picture for just this purpose but it's distant and blurry and I didn't try again because, I discovered, it feels really dumb to take photos of writers. But check out how Oregon this crowd is.
1. Junot Diaz loves Portland because "of all 20 cities I've visited on this tour, this is the first one where within two hours someone offered me smoke."
2. He has a total Jersey accent.
3. Responding to the question of how autobiographical is this book (answer: it's not): "My next book is about fucking mutants. I'm not kidding. And still someone's gonna be like, [in falsetto voice] 'Is that from your liiiife?'"
3a. He was also gracious and sweet about it, though: "I don't mind that question--fuck, as an artist you're so lucky anybody even wants to ask you questions at all."
4. "When you're writing it's like a fire. Fire is so eager to integrate everything it encounters." I just read something else like this, who said it?, about how when you're really in a story you're writing, you see signs everywhere you go. That is an exhilarating feeling--it changes how you see the whole world. Peronally I think it makes me a little checked out and socially retarded, too, but whatever, it's more gratifying than your standard social intercourse.
5. In 1992, the Dominican government built this enormous lighthouse, the Faro a Colon, to commemorate the quintennial of Columbus landing there. It cost a shit-ton of money and projects a cross-shaped beam of light 150 feet into the sky. But, as Diaz told it, the electricity situation is sketchy, and so at night, all the lights would go out in Santo Domingo--all the houses, the whole city would go dark--and then the lighthouse would switch on, this huge beam rising into the sky, and (here he swooped his cupped hand upward to illustrate) "it was like it was sucking all the light out of the city." He laughed and shook his head. "They don't even turn it on anymore. Couldn't afford it."
6. "You're probably really good at something that you gave up on too early." And then: "I thought, What if I gave up one week before it was gonna happen?"
It's true, right?
What did you give up on?