It's a busy night in bookish LA and some difficult choices must be made. Namely: Ann Packer or Junot Diaz? My first response is: Diaz. The man has been silent for eleven very long years (the length of these years stretching ever-further in my own mind because his short story collection Drown changed me...forever changed me...and it has been murder waiting all these years to see what he'll do next) and as I've never heard him read (outside of podcasts), it seems insane not to scurry out and make it happen. The regret of not attending would be rather heavy to carry around, especially if he disappears again for yet another eleven years.
But. I'm sure I'm not the only one who feels this way. I suspect there are others - many others - who've also been waiting for their moment. Their chance. The day when he would finally make an appearance and read what he has written. If the reports from Miami and other locales are true, Diaz has been packing every reading he's given, with crowds standing in the back, sitting on the floor, attempting to share seats and folks who didn't make the cut pressed against the outside windows just to get a peek.
As I've stated before, this sort of reading always makes me feel...like not going. Consider Chuck Palahniuk. I dig him. Really dig him. But his readings freak me out, so packed to the gills they've become that I find it off-putting. Viscerally. So I avoid them. But there is a continuum on which my interest in the writer outweighs my irritation at large, sweaty crowds. David Foster Wallace is a case in point. I've waited in rain and sleet and four foot deep snow...well...I exaggerate, but I've waited in the equivalent of rain and sleet and snow for LA (read: the cold, cold Hammer courtyard) and I've not regretted it. I believe you either have to buck-up or stay at home.
Shall I buck up for Diaz at Dutton's?
Or shall I take the easier route to Packer in Pasadena? A quick slipstream up the 110, vast amounts of parking, a cafe with good espresso. A roomy reading area where the seats are plentiful and guests rarely sit on the floor (except for A.M. Homes, where there are always people on the floor) while listening with rapt attention. Consider Packer. Her second novel, Songs Without Words, meant to be just as marvelous (perhaps more so) than her last (which I must admit I've not read.) A difficult choice, really. A combination of so many things roiling around in my mind. Tough to decide.
Perhaps we should have an excerpt-off? Much like the walk-off in Zoolander, but with excerpts instead of, well, walking would-be models.
First Up: the very old but much-linked to excerpt of The Brief Wonderous Life of Oscar Wao from December 2000
Second Up: a very current, just put up there excerpt from Songs Without Words
Therefore: if you were me, who would you go see?