Thursday, March 25, 2010

Puro Diaz

My wife heckles me quite a bit about my subscription to The New Yorker. "You pay all this money for one reason, Junot Diaz," she says each time the magazine arrives in our mailbox. "Nah," I respond but I know this to be true as by second-nature I flip to the table of contents and finger-stroll halfway down the page to the fiction icon hoping to see, Junot Diaz. Hell, been doing this routine for fifteen years now.

The New Yorker's recent publication of Diaz's short story, The Pura Principal, returns to the neighborhood or as Diaz puts it the nabe of Drown with his alter ego, Yunior, brother Rafa, and Mami. We encounter Diaz at his best as narrator, Yunior, remains the linguist of lingo, spitting out phrases that validate the Pulitzer Prize winner.

It's a story about sickness, both mental and physical; Mami cures her locura through the bible, Yunior copes with marijuana, and cancer ridden Rafa takes to parrying and exchanging blows with the aftermath of his chemo. "He prided himself on being the neighborhood lunatic, wasn't going to let a little thing like cancer get in the way of his official duties," writes Diaz. "Not a week out of the hospital, he cracked this illegal Peruvian kid in the face with a hammer..."

In vintage Diaz fashion, the characters survive with tragic honesty. At first Rafa has little trouble holding his own with the cancer. He thinks himself some superhero gato loco with nine lives until his eventual demise arrives not in death, but with Pura Adama or as Mami called her, Pura Mierda. Mami knew the fresh-off-the-boat-didn't-have-no-papers Dominicana was out to fit a ring around her finger to become legit. As Yunior put it, "Something about Pura's face, her timing, her personality, just drove Mami batshit." True to Mami's prophecy, Rafa pulled a reverse Houdini and found himself shackled to la Pura.

And although it came as a surprise to Yunior, Mami wasn't having it, wasn't going to take her querido Rafa in with his new wifey. With their vices in tote the story moves on; Mami con la biblia, Yunior la mota, y Rafa la Pura Mierda. Mami knew Rafa would (eventually) find his way home. By the time Pura called, she had wrung Rafa dry. He was near death when Yunior found him and the fever had scrambled his mind into mad delusion. There would be no tomorrow for Pura; it was as if she'd never existed; it was as if Rafa had never left home.

The Pura Principle. Diaz, Junot, The New Yorker: March 22, 2010

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

For us more frugal folks, who don't want to pay the yearly subscription fees, the Junot Diaz story can also be read FREE online at printed it out and enjoyed it a few days ago. Well worth your time to read.