To say that Junot Diaz's talk Monday night was short would be an understatement. It may have taken me longer to park, find the restroom and scope out a decent seat than it took him to make his 7 Days of Opening Nights appearance. Even more strange was the fact that he took only three questions — two of them from a woman who wanted to know about his appearance on "The Colbert Report." Diaz seemed fairly down to earth from where I was sitting, but ... I dunno, it just seemed like something was going on behind the scenes that the audience wasn't privy to. Writers. What are you gonna do?
Anyway, Diaz did have some very interesting things to say about writing, most notably the idea that the reader should approach reading with some level of humility. In other words, it's OK if you don't understand everything immediately or have to ask someone else for help. He made this point after Colbert Woman asked him if the use of Spanish words in "The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao" might be a stumbling block for some readers.
"This is a book written by somebody who never forgot how they learned to read. There's always something that you don't know. There's always something that you don't understand. It's honoring the deep structure of reading," Diaz said. "As adults ... we've forgotten how reading works. The reading is not about you knowing every goddamn word."
He also talked about the book's relentless footnotes as a literary device. He likened their constant interruption to a kid who starts jabbering the minute their mom or dad makes a phone call. Diaz said that literature can function as a sort of dictatorship when only one person is allowed to speak.
"The person in the footnotes was trying to fuck the whole thing up," he said. "I wasn't trying to blend it. I wanted the two narratives to fight."
He ended the talk with a brief reading, and that was it. Band, horns down. A long line promptly formed for a book signing, but it seemed like the best thing to do was call it a night and continue enjoying the book on my own. On to David Sedaris in April.