Saturday, April 3, 2010

The Pura Principle

by Junot Díaz

I've been a fan of Díaz's writing since I read Drown the year it came out (I don't remember when that is, but it must have been more than ten years ago). His Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao was one of my favourite books of the last couple of years. And so, I saw it as quite a treat when I saw that he had a story in this issue of the New Yorker.

Once again, his fiction is narrated by a character named Yunior, who is more of an observer in his surroundings than a willing participant. Yunior's brother, Rafa, is one of those stereotypical tough New York Domincan guys; he bounces from girl to girl, fights, deals, and frequently disobeys his adoring mother. Rafa is all of this, but he also has cancer, and is having a hard time holding on to his status in the wake of chemo treatments.

His mother continues to devote her life to him, her only pleasure or outlet being her Bible group, who Junior refers to as the Four Horseheads of the Apocalypse. As Rafa tries to speed up his recovery, he gets a short-lived job at the Yarn Barn, where he meets Pura, a Dominican illegal with a young son, who Rafa's mother emphatically does not life.

What follows is a tight little domestic drama, told in Díaz's usual sharp prose, with a liberal sprinkling of Spanish phrases and expressions. Díaz keeps control of his pop culture references here - Junior is not half the geek that Oscar Wao was - but still delivers with some very nice observations and figures of speech. I hope this story signals the arrival of another novel soon.

1 comment:

thingslikei said...

I forgot to mention the accompanying illustration by Jaime Hernandez - it's like finding the perfect wine for your dinner.