In my previous post, I mentioned how little of a crap I give for contemporary literature. There are very few works of fiction published this decade that particularly impressed me. Two of those books were Lush Life and The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao.
In what seems to be an attempt at taking over the New York Sun‘s slot as Official Media Venue of Gil Roth, New York Magazine got Richard Price and Junot Diaz, the authors of those two books, to sit down for a conversation about New York City in the mag’s 40th anniversary issue. The rest of the annivesary issue looks mighty impressive, but I sat down to read this piece before any of the others.
NY: You must have seen neighborhoods evolve in all kinds of ways over the last 40 years.
RP: When you go to Harlem now, all the franchises are thereâ€”Starbucks and Linens â€™nâ€™ Things. Itâ€™s the same eight stores that are metastasized everywhere. And in neighborhoods where people have money, theyâ€™ll say, â€œOh, a Starbucks, another fucking Starbucks.â€ But in Harlem, itâ€™s like, â€˜Hey, Starbucks, man! HÃ¤agen-Dazs and Baskin-Robbins! Yowee!â€ Weâ€™re all thinking There goes the neighborhood, and theyâ€™re thinking Here comes the neighborhood.
JD: Me and my girl beef about this. I know this is a weird thing to desire, but when you feel locked out of the larger culture, even if itâ€™s a consumer-capitalist one, thatâ€™s a lot, bro. You know, thereâ€™s not a bookstore, and thereâ€™s not a place you can go if you wanna spend $5 for coffee. It weighs on people, man. It feels like youâ€™re isolated, and you are. My girl loved it when a Starbucks opened up. But Iâ€™m one of those fuckers whoâ€™s like, â€œNaw, man, itâ€™s corporate!â€ Iâ€™m like an idiot.
I gotta sit down and read Diaz’s short story collection somedarntime.