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Old friends Junot Díaz and Francisco Goldman talk shop

Authors Junot Díaz and Francisco Goldman chat with each other and Miwa Messer at The Barnes and Noble review.

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Junot Díaz: That's what we dream about, what we long for, books like those. Certainly as a reader that's the kind of books I've loved. Of course what you end up writing is something else altogether. You're working on that new novel set in New England and I'm trying to imagine the world of a young teenage girl in Santo Domingo, a Third World striver, the kind of girl that wants to do everything right in a country where for poor people even that can't keep the catastrophe off you. I'm hoping she'll lead me through to my next novel. But who knows – it takes me years of patient scribbling before my characters ever deign to speak to me.

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The Barnes & Noble Review: Before we finish, I can't resist asking you both the classic question: Tell us what books you'd want to have with you if you were stranded on a desert island?

Francisco Goldman: Desert island books, damn. How big is the island, and how long am I going to be there? Long books, I guess. "In Search of Lost Time." "War and Peace." "The Collected Shakespeare." "Moby-Dick"! "The Collected Borges." "2666," why not? Something immense that I haven't read yet, "The Man without Qualities." Emily Dickinson's poetry too, which I've been reading all summer. And definitively the "Guia Roji," which contains all roads, a Borgesian cartography of Mexico City, as immense and dense as the city itself, but all its maps packed into a single fat book. Currently, for a piece I'm writing, I'm using it like the I-Ching, closing my eyes, opening it to any page, and then trying to drive to the spot my finger touches down on. I've never driven in Mexico City before, and it terrifies me.

Junot Díaz: "Les Miserables" is perfect for the stranded. It's immense and has a lot of Melville-esque post-modern outbursts, and it's about justice – few books are about that anymore – and it always gets me crying. I'd also need something from my childhood. "Watership Down." Every time I read this line – "My Chief Rabbit has told me to defend this run and until he says otherwise I shall stay here." – my heart feels like it's going to burst. And I'd need something from real life. Maxine Hong Kingston's "China Men" or Edward Rivera's "Family Installments." And something from home (the Caribbean). Patrick Chamoiseau's "Texaco" or Cristina Garcia's "Dreaming In Cuban." And a book of poetry. Aracelis Girmay's "Kingdom Animalia." And a comic book. Katsuhiro Otomo's "AKIRA." And something for the ancestors: "Song of Solomon." And something I haven't read before, something that ain't out yet but that will be by the time I'm shipwrecked.

Miwa Messner is a Barnes and Noble Review contributor.

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