Junot Diaz, Octavia Butler: Other People’s Books

March 13, 2013

It was 1957 and she was ten.    She had managed to save five dollars, mostly in change,  but still a lot of money.   The public library had been fine up to this point;  now she was plunging into a whole new territory.

The first book that Octavia Butler  bought was about different breeds of horses.   The second was about stars and
planets, asteroids, moons, comets.

I wish we knew who the authors were.

Junot Diaz, luckily, did one of the New York Times “By the book” essays recently, so we’re blessed on that front.   As we should have guessed from the Brief Wondrous life of Oscar Wao, SF is high on his reading list.  He has always wanted to write like Doris Lessing in Shikasta: with bravura, “alien ethnographic reports on Old Testament history mixed with cranky letters home by overworked alien bureaucrats.”   And he has always  relied on “essays on craft by folks like Samuel R. Delany (his “About Writing” is spectacularly useful).”   But it’s Octavio Butler that he’s always “trying to sneak into all the syllabi” in his MIT classes.  ” She is a master for all seasons. ”

If he got to invite for dinner three authors dead or living, who would they be?  José Martí, Arundhati Roy, and — of course — Octavia Butler.

Now that’s a mensch.

About wcd2

Professor of English and American Studies
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