Monday, February 11, 2008

Read or die

In conversation, under the olive trees in one of the academy's gardens, Díaz fizzes with energy, ideas and garrulous good nature. Why the long gap between Drown and Oscar? 'I write incredibly slowly. And, on top of that, I spent my entire youth and twenties working like a dog, so one of the things that happened when I finished Drown was that I got busy living. I'd never travelled, I'd never seen anything. So I did as much travelling as my job teaching would allow.'

Teaching creative writing, he admits - first at Syracuse University, then at MIT - has been a mixed blessing: regular money has stopped him 'starving to death', but it has also been 'very time-consuming and works exactly the muscle you use when you write - the language muscle'. Among writer friends, he says: 'I was kind of bad luck. Most of them paid lip service to the idea that a work of art could take a long time, but a lot of them assumed I was doomed. For them, if they went two years without writing a book, they'd kill themselves. In Latin America, of course, no one would have cared.'

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