Junot Díaz's 1996 debut, Drown, was one of the most celebrated short-story collections of its decade. The loosely connected group of stories mainly followed bookish-yet-tough Yunior, who emigrates as a kid from the Dominican Republic to New Jersey. Drown told stories of junkies in love, of embittered pool-table installers, of poverty and violence and desire; for once, fans of Toni Morrison, Denis Johnson, and the Wu-Tang Clan could agree on something. The prose was usually as flashy as beige carpet, but Díaz put his words to workcheck, for instance, the verb in this sentence: "I sawed my forearm across my nose." Over a decade later and after a few reported false starts, Díaz returns with his second book and debut novel, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. Yunior, now teaching at a community college, returns to narrate the mythic tale of the titular hero, a fat, nerdy Dominican-American author of unpublished science fiction novels. I couldn't track down a review copy before deadline, but an excerpt in the New Yorker showed Díaz stretching out greatly as a stylist and storyteller, and the early reviews have been enthusiastic.
Mon., Sept. 17, 7:30 p.m.
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