Discussion Notes: Wildwood
Find this week’s story here: Wildwood by Junot Diaz.
Next week’s story: All the Assholes in the World and Mine by Charles Bukowski.
This week our hosts discuss Wildwood by Junot Diaz, a short story that fits into Diaz’s novel The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. Having read the novel, Maya and Anais understood the greater context that forms the emotional universe of the narrator’s relationship with her mother. Because Gerald and Rammy did not read the novel, they were at times bewildered by the mother’s over the top caustic personality. Rammy noted that the short story felt as though it had a lot of loose ends. As for Gerald, the language and vividness of the characters saved the story from itself.
Maya and Anais were both impressed with Junot Diaz’s ability to write nuanced women who felt real. For that reason, the story prompted a great discussion of mother-daughter relationships and female competition.
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2 comments on Wildwood | Junot Diaz | Literary Roadhouse Ep 86
I enjoyed the discussion and believe you are correct. The work is powerful, moving and well written. Diaz is on top of his game. But this isn’t a short story, and thus can’t be judged as such. You can’t separate this chapter from the rest of the book (despite what the New Yorker did). The mother makes no sense without understanding the horrible things she went through, and the daughter is hard to appreciate without knowing what she has had to put up with, growing up in that house with that mother. This isn’t just any mother and daughter.
I’ll go one step further. All three of Junot’s books need to be considered together. Want to understand Yunior? You need to watch him grow up in Drown, watch how he interacts with his brother. Then you get an idea of what moves him in Oscar Wao, while he is at Rutgers, and his relationship to the title character and the sister. And then when you see him trying to deal with women (after his brother’s sickness and death) in This is How you Lose Her, you can understand that he is a work in progress, trying to grapple with his life from and with the help of and sometimes in spite of his family and background. He is, literally, a piece of work.
It is fascinating to compare your treatment of Diaz in this installment, versus your take on The Cheater’s Guide to Love, from This is How You Lose Her. I recall that podcast (I think it was an early one) being much more critical of the story, and the style too., especially the use of the untranslated words. I would love to hear your thoughts about whether you think Junot changed, or did something else happen after all these podcasts.
Please keep up the great work. I am enjoying all the podcasts, even when I don’t write comments.
Richard, I completely agree that watching Yunior grow up in Drown helped shape the character for me. I absolutely adore Drown. It’s a great anthology.
As for our reception of Diaz, I think we’ve changed. The weekly discussion of fiction has changed us as readers. In fact, for the 100th episode, we’re thinking of revisiting the very first story, The Story of an Hour by Kate Chopin, to compare how our analysis has changed over the course of 100 episodes.