“It took forever to get the fucking stories I needed to do this project,” says Díaz, whose lunch conversation runs like an advanced literary seminar taught by a bilingual stand-up comedian working very blue. One early version of the title story began at Rutgers, where he went to college and met his first love; another was set in Boerum Hill, where he lived in a cheap walk-up before Drown was published. Eventually, he put the whole thing aside to write The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, a tragicomic picaresque set against the backdrop of his native country’s midcentury Trujillo dictatorship, which won him the Pulitzer Prize. Shortly afterward, he was asked to be on the Pulitzer Prize board, completing his rocket arc into the Establishment.
It was, in some ways, the worst time in his life.”