Junot Diaz seems to be the darling of the fiction world right now. His long awaited debut novel, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, about a nerdy Dominican boy Yunior, won the National Book Critics Circle Award as well as the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction this year. Mr. Diaz seems to be reeling; he recently wondered to the Chicago Tribune which limb he was going to have to lose “to balance out the universe” now that he won the Pulitzer. In his delirium, he shared an excerpt of his new work in progress, a novel called Dark America, during an Amazon.com blog interview. Emily Bobrow wrote in her Observer review of Oscar Wao that “[d]arkness seems to be an essential ingredient in any Latin American novel, given the continent’s politics of tyranny and sputtering revolution. But the breezy, ballsy informality of the narration keeps the action light and kinetic, as if Yunior, our slightly mysterious guide, is entertaining friends over beers.” The new novel has a similar voice:
I’m somewhere in the Zone, traveling on top of an transport. Bound for City.
The only City there is.
What I see. Usually just the f-ckedup hide of the truck. Every now and then I lift my head a little and see the other Travellers sucked onto the metal of the container like remora. See the fresca from the night before, long hair whipping back in thousands of everchanging streams. See: fields of white crosses, an endless proliferation of kudzu, a basketball game between the Junior Klan and the Uncle Muhammed Youth League–a regular five on five with a ref and everything so you know we’re in the End Times for real. And sometimes, if I’m not careful, I see my mother and my brother standing by the edge of the road. She has her hand on his shoulder and they still got snow clotting up the spaces between their toes. They’re waving. Since the transport is automated it switches its lights on only when it detects another vehicle or when we’re in civilization but at night on the interstates it feels like we’re rushing through a corridor of whooshing air as unlit as a vein. We pass cities and zonafrancas and fortress towns and overhead roar fighter jets and gunships and every now and then the transport will squash something on the road. A rumble under the tires and then the return to the lullaby of the whoosh as whatever it is gets spat out behind the mud flaps in ruin.
I don’t try to look around too much. We are going over a hundred miles an hour and there is a little indio kid on my left who I’m trying to keep from blowing off the top of the transport. About an hour ago his pops lost his grip on him and screamed one of those miserable Noooo’s that reaches into even me and before the kid could catch sky I leaned over and pulled him in. You should have heard his little heart, seen his little face. Stupid, attracting attention. A Samaritan I’m not. Believe me. I could just as easily have watched the kid sail and said, Wepa!
At times like these, even hardguys like me, all we should do is hold on. Plenty folks get peeled off the transports, especially kids and the thins, turned into axle grease which is why these rigs are plastered with signs in English, Spanish, Krïol, Cantonese, Hmong, Vietnamese, Portuguese, Russian and Ghanaian: Stay The F-ck Off. Sometimes the local youth–when they’re not immbolized on huff or bending each other over–will man the overpasses and drop debris on us, anything from bricks and firecrackers to hot oil and glass, get it all on ractives so they can spin the shit for laughs onto the net. The life of the Traveller, as they say, no es fácil. You should see how tired folks are after only a couple of hours on a transport. Praying for the next reforge, their arms trembling and these are the ones who got lucky and scored a roof spot. The ones who got to cling to the side rigging, muchacho, they’re lucky if they’re alive by the time we reach a depot.