Tournament of Books discussion

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao
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2020 Super-Rooster Books > The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

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message 1: by Amy (new) - added it

Amy (asawatzky) | 1617 comments location to discuss the Tournament of Rooster winners book: The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz

this should be interesting


message 2: by jo (new) - added it

jo | 429 comments Oohhhh. What are going to do with the disgraced Junot Díaz????


message 3: by Julie (last edited Apr 01, 2019 10:40PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Julie (julnol) | 110 comments Undisgraced
"Junot Díaz welcomed back by Pulitzer prize after review into sexual misconduct claims"

https://www.theguardian.com/books/201...


message 4: by jo (new) - added it

jo | 429 comments Julie wrote: "Undisgraced
"Junot Díaz welcomed back by Pulitzer prize after review into sexual misconduct claims"

https://www.theguardian.com/books/201...-..."


Hmmmmm. Still disgraced but with a good job?


message 5: by Alison (new)

Alison Hardtmann (ridgewaygirl) | 444 comments jo wrote: "Hmmmmm. Still disgraced but with a good job?..."

So the consequences were, once again, minimal. There's a shocker.

I'm a completist, but I'm not sure I'm going to read this one.


Jenny (Reading Envy) (readingenvy) | 541 comments It is no surprise that this happened, but I'm not sure I can read this one again.


message 7: by Jan (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jan (janrowell) | 1040 comments There’s a newish audiobook of this read by Lin-Manuel Miranda and Karen Olivo. I don’t plan to do much rereading for the tournament of champions, but this will be a definite exception.


Heather (hlynhart) | 298 comments Jan wrote: "There’s a newish audiobook of this read by Lin-Manuel Miranda and Karen Olivo. I don’t plan to do much rereading for the tournament of champions, but this will be a definite exception."

I just downloaded that version. Looking forward to it!


lark benobi (larkbenobi) | 54 comments I didn't like this novel which makes it easier to stay true to my principles and not read it again. I'm glad Sherman Alexie hasn't won a rooster.


Ehrrin | 114 comments Yeah, I read it when it came out, but definitely not interested in reading him again.


message 11: by Heather (last edited Apr 06, 2019 11:17PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Heather (hlynhart) | 298 comments I'm two chapters in to the audiobook version narrated by Miranda, and I have to say, so far, I'm enchanted. Sorry if that's not PC, but I've always been a separate the art from the artist kind of gal, and it seems like the investigations of Diaz were found to be not serious/substantiated enough to warrant him being removed from his various jobs and posts. That can be taken with a grain of salt, and I certainly don't fault anyone who doesn't want to read his work as a result but for me, I'm glad I'm finally experiencing this novel because so far I really love it.


message 12: by Diane (new)

Diane (diane_g) | 9 comments i just cannot separate the art from the artist... even though I do separate the art from the artist all the time because I do not know what all the artists have done to all the women throughout time. Is time supposed to make a difference? I don't know how to reconcile my desire to read this book with who I believe he is.


message 13: by lark (new) - rated it 2 stars

lark benobi (larkbenobi) | 54 comments well it's hard to talk about who should be read/not read because the author has been charged with credible harassment or assault allegations. It's hard to talk about even between people of extreme goodwill, face to face. Even in the best of circumstances we don't have the vocabulary yet to separate creeps from monsters.

It feels likely to me that some of these credibly accused authors, like Junot Diaz, Sherman Alexie, and Glenn Thrush (NYT reporter who lost a big book contract) think of themselves as big unattractive schlubs rather than as powerful men. They all look like grownup versions of the kids who used to be laughed at by the popular kids in high school and they are none of them Harvey Weinsteins. I like to think it's a painful but necessary learning experience to them all to realize how their actions affected women in their orbit and that they will redeem themselves eventually.

Junot Diaz's case is more complicated to me because he's a victim of childhood sexual abuse himself, and because he is (was?) known for his good works promoting other writers. He founded a fantastic organization, Voices of Our Nation, to support and mentor young authors of color. The other board members struggled with how to respond to allegations and I believe they ended up asking him to leave the board and purging his participation from the website.

So that's all I know.


Karin (8littlepaws) | 96 comments I read this book years ago, and it just never sat well with me since. The more time between me and reading it, the more my negative opinion of the book grows. I was shocked to see I initially gave it 4 stars...I think younger me thought perhaps I was missing some genius and rounded up. Current me knocked it down to 2.


message 15: by Janet (last edited Apr 09, 2019 08:11AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Janet (justjanet) | 630 comments Before I read Oscar Wao, I read This Is How You Lose Her. That was in 2013 and I had just met Diaz at BEA that year. I wrote then "I found myself wondering if this book is slightly autobiographical, the similarities between Diaz and Yunior are striking but all I can say is I hope not. That Latin machismo stuff is pretty tiresome and I'd hate to think that the charming Mr. Diaz is that much of a misogynist."

I'm not saying I was prescient because I think authors often reveal themselves in their writing but perhaps we should all notice a little more when we're reading works of supposed fiction. That doesn't mean they don't have something of value to say about our world and how it works, or how it's broken. We can study their viewpoint and agree they did a good job expressing it, without agreeing with or admiring them personally.


Nadine (nadinekc) | 502 comments So I'm wondering how this issue applies to memoirs - if the person seems reformed, contrite, and we believe them? This thought comes to mind as I'm reading Survival Math: Notes on an All-American Family and having a hard time with the author whenever he talks about women and relationships.


Janet (justjanet) | 630 comments Nadine wrote: "So I'm wondering how this issue applies to memoirs - if the person seems reformed, contrite, and we believe them? This thought comes to mind as I'm reading [book:Survival Math: Notes on an All-Amer..."

Isn't the question really whether we want to put money in an author's pocket when they either admit to or are revealed to have committed some despicable behavior? It's not really about whether we want to read it because most literary fiction contains despicable behavior of one sort or another.


message 18: by lark (new) - rated it 2 stars

lark benobi (larkbenobi) | 54 comments Janet wrote: "I'm not saying I was prescient because I think authors often reveal themselves in their writing but perhaps we should all notice a little more when we're reading works of supposed fiction. ..."

I feel like my reading of authors facing conduct allegations will be forever changed, now that I know that about them.

I feel a little queasy about making assumptions about authors from their fiction without real-life evidence, though, or assuming the characters are autobiographical, maybe because of personal experience. I was called out as an anti-Semite once in a book review that was published in The New Republic, and the reviewer's only evidence of this astonishing opinion was what a fictional character said in my novel. The reviewer literally quoted my fictional character and attributed her words to me in real life. It's very unpleasant to have someone make assumptions about who you are because of what your fictional characters say and do.


Janet (justjanet) | 630 comments Then that person crossed a line into accusation which is entirely inappropriate. I can wonder about a lot of things and also talk about in careful terms without making it an accusation.


message 20: by lark (new) - rated it 2 stars

lark benobi (larkbenobi) | 54 comments Janet wrote: "Then that person crossed a line into accusation which is entirely inappropriate. I can wonder about a lot of things and also talk about in careful terms without making it an accusation."

True.

I have contradictory feelings about how much weight to give autobiographical information, or how much speculation I want to make about the author's intent as I read. Sometimes I just want to read the book like it's a thing apart from the author, but when the author is alive and also out there as a public personality, or if they have an extreme and unique autobiography, then I start to think of the author and the book as deeply connected. doing that a lot right now with the J.G. Ballard books I'm reading.


Nadine (nadinekc) | 502 comments Janet wrote: "Nadine wrote: "So I'm wondering how this issue applies to memoirs -

Isn't the question really whether we want to put money in an author's pocket when they either admit to or are revealed to have committed some despicable behavior? It's not really about whether we want to read it because most literary fiction contains despicable behavior of one sort or another. "


Janet, I think you maybe misinterpreting what I said, or I didn't say it very clearly. When an author writes a memoir that describes behavior that a reader might condemn, what does a reader do? I'm just wondering if the reader's feelings about the author would be the same for memoir as for fiction. If the memoir is written as an apology, or as a defense, or some mixture of the two - how does that affect the reader's calculus? I don't think there's a right or wrong answer and I don't know what my answer would be.


Janet (justjanet) | 630 comments Hmmm, I’ve read so much memoir that is partially fiction I have a hard time making that demarcation.


message 23: by Melissa (last edited Apr 10, 2019 12:56AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Melissa (melissabeez) | 19 comments I'm far more heartbroken about allegations of bad behavior by authors who have touched me (Alexie) then those who have not (Diaz). That doesn't mean I am more or less likely to take the allegations seriously, just that I am more disappointed by people I expected better from......which doesn't really seem fair.

I believe I was hit especially hard by the allegations against Alexie as I had just finished reading his book about his troubled relationship with his mother who had just passed away, "You Don't Have to Say You Love Me." He talked about how common abuse was in his larger family and his native community as well, which just ripped my guts out.

BTW. Has anyone seen the "American Bitch" episode of the HBO show "Girls" where one of the female characters has an extended talk with an older male author, supposedly Philip Roth, about his bad behavior with young women? Ouch for sure!


Karin (8littlepaws) | 96 comments Nadine wrote: "So I'm wondering how this issue applies to memoirs - if the person seems reformed, contrite, and we believe them? This thought comes to mind as I'm reading [book:Survival Math: Notes on an All-Amer..."

I just read this book earlier this month, and I feel you on this. I know exactly what chapter you're talking about and I really struggled with how to process that section as well.


Jenny (Reading Envy) (readingenvy) | 541 comments Melissa wrote: "BTW. Has anyone seen the "American Bitch" episode of the HBO show "Girls" where one of the female characters has an extended talk with an older male author, supposedly Philip Roth, about his bad behavior with young women? Ouch for sure!"

It was brilliant. I watched it like three times because I just think they got it so spot-on - where you start to realize it's part of a pattern, that he has a shtick, that he knows exactly what will happen. His emotional manipulation of Hannah is practically part of his craft (and wow, ties to a novel discussion in the Newest Literary Fiction group, where we've talked about the male writer character and the way he uses women in order to find fuel for his writing....)

As someone who serves as a Title IX investigator on the campus where I work, I must say that someone not being found responsible by an institution is not the same as them not doing what these women have said. It is very hard to prove cases of he said/she said. The decisions have to be made based on the evidence that exists, not the court of public opinion. And on most campuses, the standard of evidence for TItle IX is even lower than it is for criminal charges, so you know, forget about those. It is an imperfect system but what other choice do we have. (But I no longer read "cleared" as "innocent.")

It's completely beside the point how many good works a person has done. They can simultaneously have inspired people to be writers and taken advantage of that position. They can have raised themselves up and others up through attention and awards and also be a sexual predator. I think our impulse is often to let our belief/support/enjoyment of one allow us to assume the other side can't be true. But this is internal work each of us has to do. After all, what is the most disturbing point of The Handmaid's Tale other than that women are often perpetuating the very system that oppresses women?


Heather (hlynhart) | 298 comments I just want to clarify also that one...I believe the women who have accused Diaz, as my default position is to believe accusers...(I am regretting referring to the accusations against him as unsubstantiated in my earlier post) and two, for whatever reason, I'm still able and willing to enjoy works of art created by people who may have done abusive or egregious things. I totally understand and respect that many people feel differently.

I guess I also have kind of an internal sliding scale related to the seriousness of the accusations. Since Diaz was not accused of rape , I'm more able to go ahead and enjoy his novels in a way I would probably not be able to enjoy Cosby's show, for example. Again, though, your mileage may vary and it's fine if it does. I don't even necessarily think my position is the right one, it's just the position I find myself actually doing.


Nadine (nadinekc) | 502 comments Heather wrote: "I just want to clarify also that one...I believe the women who have accused Diaz, as my default position is to believe accusers...(I am regretting referring to the accusations against him as unsubs..."

Heather, I share your ideas here. Also, I take into account whether the accused is genuinely doing the painful work of self-examination and taking responsibility for their actions. Not making excuses, not trying to save their careers, but authentically trying to understand themselves.


Ehrrin | 114 comments Lark wrote: "well it's hard to talk about who should be read/not read because the author has been charged with credible harassment or assault allegations. It's hard to talk about even between people of extreme ..."

I just want to say how much I appreciate this thoughtful, nuanced, and respectful conversation. I'm usually kind of a hardliner after about cutting off my fandom of people who turn out to be shitbags (or alleged shitbags)--Woody Allen, Sherman Alexie (that one hurt), Diaz, Michael Jackson, etc. etc. etc. etc. But I appreciate all the opinions here, and it's given me more perspectives to think about.


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