Monday, June 16, 2008

The complex decision-making process in choosing which fiction to buy

It was No Milk Please who recommended Junot Diaz as an author. But No Milk is obviously fluent in Spanish, while mine is limited to such touristy favourites as "donde esta el servicio?" (where is the toilet?) and "Quanto questa?" (How much?).

So when I flicked through a copy of The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao and found all those untranslated Spanish phrases, I put the book down and went looking for Monica Ali's Brick Lane. The review of the movie sounded pretty good, but...there's just something a bit uncool about reading a book after the movie comes out.

And then I thought, why not ask the staff whether they've got Diaz' book of short stories? No Milk said it was just about the only book of short stories he'd ever read in which every single story was great. They had one last copy in the shop. So that's the one I bought - Drown.

And so far, he's right. Even though they're full of words and phrases in Spanish, I've enjoyed every story I've read. Imagine how much more I'd appreciate them if I understand all the words. Characters re-appear throughout the book, so it's a little like reading an episodic novel - like Amy Tan's Joy Luck Club (which, apparently, is in fact 16 short stories marketed as one novel). The stories are mostly not happy, yet they aren't depressing. How the hell does Diaz do that?

I might even go back to the book shop and get Oscar Wao.

3 comments:

Nigel Patel said...

I like the idea of sixteen stories wraped up into a novel because it's so much easier to write short snippets than a whole novel.
And if you have a Magnificent Sevenish story you don't have to load down two or three with all the good stuff.

No Milk said...

glad you enjoyed 'drown'. i think that you will find that oscar wao is very much like 'joy luck' in that it is also 4 stories in one volume. i think that despite the language, the novel was very understandable, but i am biased of course, since spanish is part of my heritage. :)

Violet said...

nigel: yeah I feel the same way. In my writing though I'd have to come up with some characters that I'd want around for that long.

no milk: I guess if I can get by without having to buy a companion Spanish-English dictionary, then it'd be okay.