Junot Diaz engages Newhouse audience
Published: Thursday, February 14, 2013
Updated: Thursday, February 14, 2013 18:02
Yesterday, the Newhouse Center held the first installment of its Distinguished Writers Series for the semester. Pulitzer Prize winner Junot Diaz, author of “The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao” and “Drown,” returned to the College for a reading of his newest short story collection, “This Is How You Lose Her.”
Professor Koichi Hagimoto from the Spanish department opened the event with a brief introduction of Diaz. After borrowing a copy of his book from a member of the audience, Diaz read excerpts from two of his newest short stories, “The Cheater’s Guide to Love” and “The Sun, The Moon, The Stars.”
Hagimoto asked the writer a series of questions regarding his Dominican American roots. Diaz emphasized the way his experience as a young immigrant influenced his distinct use of language.
Hagimoto also engaged the writer in conversation about the relationship between reading and writing. “There are two types of writers: those who write for other writers, and those who write for readers,” Diaz noted. He explained that he prefers to keep his readers in mind when writing, as they’ll be more likely to gloss over his mistakes and act as willing participants in a story, rather than actively looking to criticize his writing.
Diaz then opened the floor for questions from the audience. A member of the audience asked Diaz why he works at MIT rather than at a school with a greater emphasis on creative writing.
“You’re looking for a place that preserves your time to do art,” Diaz said, explaining that teaching at MIT allowed him to spend a lot of time on his own writing.
The writer also noted that teaching at a school known for its science and technology curriculum is a thrilling experience for him. “The rest of society thinks that what I do as an artist is nonsense, basically useless or irrelevant,” Diaz said. “I don’t want to hide in a place where they’re like ‘here we love it.’ I like the battle.”
A number of people wanted to know the secrets behind Diaz’s creative process, and he was happy to give advice to students passionate about writing. He revealed that he writes slowly—often by hand—but reads a lot. He also advised college students to wait until completing their undergraduate degrees before dedicating themselves fully to writing.
He also took questions about his upcoming writing projects. Diaz told the audience that he is in the midst of working on an “end of the world novel” that features a female protagonist. “What would it be like if the world is saved by a Dominican teenager?” he asked, summarizing the premise of his next book.