Archive for May 24th, 2010

Congratulations, Señor Díaz

Monday, May 24th, 2010
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Díaz, flanked by Packer and Barry (Photo: Toni Gauthier)

I fell in love with Junot Díaz’s The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao while writing about the author’s appearance two years ago with ZZ Packer and Lynda Barry.  I didn’t mean to read half the book while writing a short article, but I was desperate to find out what he meant by the book’s “Dr. Manhattan structure—the exploded book.”

The author has retained a warm spot in my heart.  So I was pleased to hear he will serve on the Pulitzer Board (the Associated Press notes that the Pulitzer awards “the most prestigious prizes in journalism” — I guess AP forgot that they award prestigious prizes in poetry and fiction as well).

Díaz grew up in Parlin, N.J., and describes his childhood as ”working poor, welfare, Section 8, living next to a landfill.”  He described the appointment as a “wonderful honor” and said, “The Pulitzer Prize absolutely fundamentally changed my life and career as an artist.”

Co-chairman of the board David Kennedy, a Pulitzer historian himself, said the board is excited to have Díaz, and described him as a fresh new voice in the Pulitzer decision-making.  He is, apparently, the first Latino on the board.  Díaz’s reaction:

”How come I am not surprised?” said Diaz, who emphasized that he was only the second Latino in Pulitzer history to have received the prize in fiction. ”I guess that I’m standing in for hundreds of other qualified writers, artists who should have been in that position before me. That’s always what I think about when people tell you, oh, you’re the first. Man, that’s not really the way it should have been.”

Congratulations, Señor Díaz.

Rakove and “Revolutionaries” at Kepler’s tonight!

Monday, May 24th, 2010
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Jack Rakove‘s new book Revolutionaries: A New History of the Invention of America, also got a review at the San Francisco Chronicle yesterday — it’s here.

“Rakove shows us how these legendary figures were a bundle of results as well as forceful agents of history. They were made by the Revolution, he keeps reminding his readers, not just the makers of it. Too often, books about these men, taken together or presented individually, render them larger than life, and abstract them out of the dense social, cultural and political matrix that defined their opportunities and their challenges. Rakove manages to demystify the leaders of the Revolutionary era even while clarifying the terms on which they continue to deserve our admiration.  …

What makes this conclusion so important is its defiance of a common pathology in our thinking about our national origins. We too often treat the Founding Fathers as having set us upon a highly specific political course that it is our mission to follow as closely as possible, no matter how much the times change. Rather, we need to think our way through our own dilemmas, within the broad and flexible constitutional framework we owe to Rakove’s revolutionaries. We must not expect Samuel Adams and Thomas Jefferson to do our thinking for us. That we should do for ourselves.”

However, you can bypass persuasive endorsements altogether and see for yourself:  Rakove will be appearing tonight at Kepler’s — and presumably providing citations from his own book.  (There’s also an Amazon Q&A here.)

That’s at 7.30 p.m. tonight.