>The New Yorker: "Alma" by Junot Diaz

>The Winter fiction issue of The New Yorker kicks off with this very short piece by Junot Díaz. This story is all about the voice, which is pretty typical for Díaz. The problem is that the story is told in the second person, which annoys me. Here we can speculate as to why (other than just experimentally), Díaz used second person. One possibility is that the character he’s writing about is a scumbag and a first person scumbag is hard for a reader to relate to and care about – so second person creates some distance between the narrator and the character. Another possibility is that the character keeps a journal, and we can imagine that this is the perspective he takes in the journal. That’s about as much thought as I want to give the question – the second person point of view didn’t work for me. In any case, the story is about a kid in New Jersey who is dating Alma and although he’s disrespectful of her, he does admire her. But he also cheats on her and makes the mistake of writing about it in his journal. Uh oh. This one is no threat for “Story of the Year” honors. (And, by the way, just 6 more days to vote!)

December 24 & 31, 2007: “Alma” by Junot Díaz

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  1. >I was excited to see something by Diaz in this issue, but the piece did very little for me. Merry Christmas, Cliff!

  2. >I second that comment.

    I liked that last line or two though. It redeemed the story for me, but still didn’t make me fall in love or anything.

    Any comments on the Carver stuff, Cliff? You going to get to that still?

  3. >I usually love Junot’s work but I was disappointed with this one. I echo the sentiment that second person was ineffective here.

  4. >Are you kidding???? I thought he was BRILLIANT! The 2nd person sucks the reader right into the vacuum of a world that would otherwise feel utterly foreign. I think he uses street language with such sophistication and style.

  5. >m r: that’s an interesting thought, but I think for me it does just the opposite–I want to keep the “other” at a distance, probably, and so the 2nd person seems too forward. Maybe that’s the point, to make the reader uncomfortable, challenged? Hmm. We might be on to something there, but I didn’t feel sucked in . . .

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