Junot Diaz’s Exploding Planet

1209148936177_2Evelyn Ch’ien interviews Junot Diaz, in Granta:

On a windy Thursday night in late February I stood in a faintly lit street in Harlem, in front of a modern building where Junot Díaz and his fiancée, Elizabeth de Leon, are staying. Their apartment has been furnished with an eye to clean but colourful design, with the exception of the wild, celebratory paintings of the Dominican artist Tony Capellán. Díaz’s warmth and energy haven’t waned over the years I have known him, but he has become more open and confident since the publication of his first book, the short story collection Drown.

In early March, Díaz’s novel, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, was awarded a National Book Critics Award, and in April, the Pulitzer Prize for fiction. The night I saw him, however, he was simply happy to have finished the book.

Oscar Wao is a striking departure from the tight, economically written Drown. Díaz’s prose retains its vigour and verve, but there’s a new-found ebullience as his narrative sprawls and embraces the epic form. There is more extended use of Spanish than in Drown, and a lot more meta-writing and philosophical insight. The greatest innovation of the novel, however, is its conscious manipulation of genre.