Junot Diaz is just about done talking to you: By May, he tells the Cornell Daily Sun, he’ll be finished with readings and appearances related to his excellent 2007 novel, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, so he can finally get cracking on a new work. Diaz covers a handful of topics in a Q&A with the paper, including the death of literary culture (“Literacy has never been a part of global cultural practice”), Horace Engdahl (“I think that he’s simultaneously a dumbass, and I think he’s simultaneously correct”), and his best advice for teaching writing:
I teach only undergraduates who don’t want to be writers … I just wanted to say that cause it’s a different energy … the kids … they’re more fun.
Writing is for me more of an excuse to make the students critical-minded. You know … There’s really no magic. Half of it is exposure. You expose them to the forms, the grammar of whatever convention you’re talking about, whether it’s the short story or the novel … you have the students practice it. The third component is that you really have to have a tremendous amount of compassion. You have to teach the students how to be gentle with themselves, not to be so critical, not to be so incredibly self-eviscerating. The only way you can model that is that if you actually have compassion. I think all three are the components that you tend to end up bringing to the class.