Wednesday, April 7, 2010

the pura principle

Junot Diaz has a new short story out in The New Yorker. It's called "The Pura Principle." The narrator is the familiar Yunior, a character whose voice Junot has used before in his fiction. Yunior is one of my favorite voices in fiction, as well as one of the characters whose beliefs and choices tend to break my heart/make me flinch most often (see: Yunior's relationship with the character Lola in The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao).

"The Pura Principle" is about Yunior's relationship with his older brother, Rafa, who is dying from leukemia, but still won't repent of his tigueraje, mistreatment of his mother, and general selfishness. Although Junot's depictions of a weakening Rafa are moving, Yunior is the one we love. His Dominican York vernacular rings true and his funny-as-hell observations cut right to the soul of Dominican family life. Read it for yourself and decide what you think of Yunior. One thing is for sure: you won't easily forget the world(s) he narrates or the people who move through his narrative --- from Pura, who is briefly married to Rafa, to the old church ladies Yunior christens "The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse."

There is also the character Tammy Franco, a female figure I wanted to know more about. The misogynist gazes of Junot's protagonists sometimes render women characters in flat terms (this is deliberate --- I'm not saying Junot is a misogynist, merely that he sometimes writes from the perspective of male characters who are). And although women are certainly important in Junot's stories, they are not usually at the center. Tammy is an ex-girlfriend of Rafa's who into and out of the story. Her friendship with Rafa is enigmatic and she acts as somewhat of a hero, briefly, in the piece. At every apparition, I found myself thinking, "She's the one. She's the one I want to know more about." We never quite get what Tammy is all about, and the story is just fine that way, but I do secretly wish that Tammy will show up again in another piece by Junot. 

I'm endlessly fascinated by gender politics in Junot's work and "The Pura Principle" is not different. In this story, Junot depicts a world with complicated, problematic gender dynamics, language, and characters that in all their messiness evoke real life. 

 If anyone wants to talk gender in "The Pura Principle," please send me an e-mail or hit me up on Twitter

That's all for now. Enjoy the story. Keep reading!

1 comment:

  1. Im remembering when I read The Brief Wondrous Life by Oscar Wao in DR (the first book I read about Junot Diaz, now one of me all time favorites). I actually read the last few pages by your side on the balcony of your parents room, in the sun, and I vividly remember fighting back tears (without much success.) Im looking forward to reading this one, and others by him. and more by you!



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