Sunday, June 13, 2010

Manitowoc Public Library Director Defends Book Club Choice

Link to Cherilyn Stewart's article in the June 13 Herald-Times-Reporter, "Oscar Wao book leaves readers crying foul".

Excerpt: As the Manitowoc Public Library director, I don't often have the opportunity to participate in programs, but I truly miss the interaction with customers.

So I made the effort and cleared my calendar to lead a book discussion in May. And what a friendly, heated debate it was.

On the evening set for discussion, a reader walked into the room, looked at me and said, "I'm so glad you are here, now I don't have to write a letter to the director telling her how bad this book is and how it shouldn't even be in the library." She laughed, and the gloves were off.

The group's objection to the book I chose, "The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao," written by Junot Diáz, is the abundant foul language. This objection was fairly unanimous. Indeed, the language is raw and can scrap a person's sensibilities.

Another difficulty is the author does not translate the Spanish words. Vernacular Spanish is interspersed throughout, sometimes making it hard to get the meaning of passages.

The resounding question to me was — why did I choose this book? Well, I pointed out Diaz won the Pulitzer in 2008 for this book. But I didn't choose it solely based on a literary prize, because I've read some prize-winners that I thought were terrible. I explained I chose this book because when I read (or, I really listened to an audio version) years ago, I was so absorbed by the pathetic life of Oscar I wanted to read it again

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