Sexism i Afrika

[Table] IamA junot díaz AMA!

2013.09.21 19:16 tabledresser [Table] IamA junot díaz AMA!

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Date: 2013-09-21
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Questions Answers
So, how do you keep her? By being honest and vulnerable and human and by being humble and putting her happiness over yours and most importantly by being happy yourself. but then again: you SO dont want advice from me.
What is it like teaching creative writing at a STEMmy school like MIT? Thank you so much for what you do, by the way. Oscar was the most important book that I read last year. I love defending art in places where art is not seen as central. america and mit share a lot in common in this respect.
You had a lot of difficulty writing Oscar Wao. How many different reiterations of Oscar Wao did you go through? How much research did you undergo to write the portions of the novel which took place in Trujillo’s reign of terror? Was this prior knowledge or on the fly research while writing Wao? If you were to recommend literature about this era, what would you suggest (besides Feast of the Goat)? I understand you jumped straight into an MFA after completing your BA at Rutgers. How would you describe your experience at Cornell University? Was it helpful to your success, or were you successful despite your time there? How has your experience teaching fiction in an academic setting (MIT) compared to your work with mentoring the students at VONA? For Oscar Wao I did a ton of research. I hit the archives nonstop and read as much as I could from the period. Some of the work of the loathsome Joaquin Balaguer and the formidable Juan Bosch were part of the equation. and of course pedro verges monumental Sólo cenizas hallarás, which takes place right after the fall of trujillo.
As for cornell . . . that was tough. i was very isolated and it didnt feel all that welcoming for a young kid of color coming from a poor community. I wrote DROWN while i was there and got involved in a Latino student movement that was wildly successful. by the end of it we got six faculty hires in latino studies and a latino living center. but i wouldnt want to go back up to ithaca again to live. too cut off and isolated and white for a jersey kid like me. im used to way more diversity. even boston is more diverse than that.
What is your revision process like? Do you write the first draft completely before going back to tweak it? I write so many drafts its not funny. ill work on a story for ten, 15 years. like the last tale in THIS IS HOW YOU LOSE HER. i started that shit in 1996.
I just read This Is How You Lose Her and I loved it. You write such beautiful and realistic dialogue. Do you have a process for writing such natural exchanges? Or do you just have an ear for language? Do you have any tips on how to write dialogue? I actually write as little dialogue as possible because i dont think im that good at it. but i do repeat all my dialogue over at least a 100 times aloud and that helps keep the corny out.
You write about a typical emotionally unavailable man in This Is How You Lose Her. When he obviously doesn't want to be that way. Do you have a bridge for how he can resurface into intimacy? Why is this man's psychology so important to the Latino community? Masculinity is one of the biggest social forces impacting all of our communities. men, unhealthy, diassociated men, do a lot of damage across the board. this is why raising healthy boys matters.
I dropped out of college [In Boston] a few years back because I found it really unsatisfying and because I felt like I was being pushed (and pushing myself) through a major I really didn't want to peruse. What I really would like to do is study English and Creative Writing because I think that's where my real talent might lie, or if not talent, at least satisfaction. But there's been a lot of debate recently about the value of the Humanities and English in college curriculums, and how many collages are cutting back because they no longer see the value of such programs. Do you have any suggestions for someone who is on the fence about pursuing English and wants to make a go of writing? If your mindset is about business: humanities doesnt make money, it makes humans and business has never liked humans. if your mindset is human, humaniities makes perfect sense because its about making you a better human. as a writer i majored in history and wrote. one doesnt have to major in writing or english to be a writer. its often better to have other materials rattling around in your head.
How long did it take you to get an agent? I more or less won the lottery and got an agent almost as soon as i tried. but i wasnt very professional about it. met and accepted the first agent that crossed my path. she was super young too and had no real authors under her belt. nowadays a lot of young writers want superstars as agents but what i stumbled on was a very useful truth: better an agent with energy and the time to pay attention to you than someone who is too busy to give you the energy you merit.
Thank you for being one of the most ass-kickingly heartfelt, honest, hilarious, and lyrical writers in modern fiction. Two words: Monstro. When? No idea. going to take forever.
Are you working on a new NOVEL? I am and its going badly. no other news, sorry.
If one of your friends happened to raid your personal/home library, how long would it take you before you noticed it was missing? About 30 minutes. my eyes roam ceaselessly over my books. im always looking for a way out of my current narrative problems.
What makes you smile? Like a full blown, koolaid type of smile. Kids make me smile, straight up KoolA. and when the plane lands in santo domingo. that nearly sprains my face, that smile.
Hi Junot, I literally just finished Oscar Wao this week, and have been shouting its praises from rooftops to all who will listen. It has more than earned its place on my "desert island top 10" list. If I said that Oscar's death was his self-sacrifice to end the family's Fuku, would that be more or less true? I think that's what he hoped. that it would allow for all their seperate stories to come together.
Would you be open to (short or feature-length) film adaptations of your stories? Why or why not? What would your superpower be? And your superhero name? :D. I guess i would. i would like to trust the director though. if i had a superpower it would be teleportation. (i love to travel and loath airports.) name: Thousand Masks. for no reason other than i love Mil Mascaras.
Hi, Junot! Thank you for sharing your talents with us. I've read each of your books, Oscar Wao being my favorite. Some months ago, I was considering applying for grad school to get my M.A. in English (with a concentration in Latino(a) literature, but being underemployed, student loans, etc. ultimately discouraged me from pursuing that dream right now. My application essay was going to focus on Oscar, specifically focusing on the references and elements of science fiction ever present throughout the novel, and how closely it related to the Gothic genre (not really Southern Gothic, though (Sorry, Mark Twain)); thus proving that it can be considered an 'American' novel. Is my English major brain making up odd conclusions or do you see correlations within this particular work to the Gothic genre? Actually im obsessed with the gothic. but id argue oscar wao is an example of the Post colonial gothic. and the haunted house is the diaspora. if you were my mentee, id say read about PC gothic, rewrite the paper and apply to a phd where there is funding. MA's are moneymakers for the schools but they dont do much for you. phd's there s often a lot more funding.
I loved reading Oscar Wao and am looking forward to more of your writings. So my friend and I were discussing that how in Oscar Wao, the footnotes form an integral part of the story - to the extent that sometimes it becomes difficult to tell what is the story and what is the footnote. There are not a lot of authors who use footnotes in their works per se (David Foster Wallace is one that comes to mind) What did you have in mind while adding these footnotes to your book? I had in mind the writer patrick chamoiseau and the fact that footnotes tend to be used to extend authority. i wanted to use them to disrupt it.
Oh hi Junot Diaz, do you still have the sneaker painting I gave you? Damn! i think that's in storage with all the rest of my treasures.
Can you talk about the influence of women in your life? Raised by my mom and her two sisters. i was the youngest aunt irma's favorite. and my grandmother. had two sisters of my own. and one of those kids, like oscar, who started falling in love with girls really young but who also saw girls as possible friends and mentors outside of the lover paradigm. i dont think id be an artist if it wasnt for the women in my life. for my universisty mentors etc. they more or less gave me my project, my remit, they helped initiate me into my calling.
I haven't read any of your short stories or books. What kind of things do you write and what is a good starting point to begin your work? I write about young men with cracked hearts in NJ and the Dominican Republic and a couple of other things as well. try this is how you lose her and go from there.
I’ve been troubling myself lately about the character of Pura. On the one hand, she’s so ruthless and conniving, that it’s almost easy to forget that the real “monster” is Rafa. On the other, as "campesina," her upbringing makes Yunior's look glamorous, and maybe ruthless was the only way for her to eke out a life. As readers, how do we balance our desire to pass judgment on characters with our obligation to take a full view of what they're up against? Always easier to take characters in literature to task than ourselves. its standard: we are so judgmental of others but of ourselves we're easy. i dont think Yunior is any worse than the average person. we just hide our mistakes, yunior bears witness to them. the question always is to the students: how honest are YOU about your errors and flaws? pura, like paloma in MISS LORA, understands well the men she's dealing with. and 'gets hers.' we can judge her too but what matters most for me is connecting with her and seeing ourselves in her actions.
I'm a big fan of your work. Thanks for stopping by. Like a million other people I"m an aspiring writer. My question is how do you balance theme/story in a nuanced way? I feel that a lot of times in my quest to explore my themes, I end up on quasi-philosophical rants instead of treating the subject matter in a subtle manner. Any tips for fixing that? Also, do you plan on reading Bleeding Edge by Thomas Pynchon? I do plan on reading the pynchon. just keep trying to rein it in. eventually you wont sound so forced. practice really does it.
Que lo que! I am an NJ high school teacher of Dominican students who are learning English. Which of your stories, essays, or an excerpt do you think would be most interesting for them to read? Try: how to date a browngirl, blackgirl, whitegirl or halfie.
Good morning Junot. As a woman who has been deeply touched by the hero Oscar Wao and having read the other male protagonists in Drown and This is How You Lose Her, I'm always left feeling as though I've fallen through a weak spot in the floor of male stereotypes, stumbling into a deeper, more complex area of the male psyche after reading your stories. I find myself wondering what you hope women will draw from your portrayals of men. Care to elaborate? That was always the hope. i wanted to draw a more profound map of the kind of male psyches i grew up with, these hidden subjectivities. not just so we can understand them but so we perhaps can begin to talk about how we change them.
Would you rather fight one horse-sized duck or a hundred duck-sized horses? Thank you and id just run! no fighting for me!
What music is currently in heavy rotation on your ipod? Laura Mvula. Valerie June. and those new Drake cuts. just so i have something to talk to my goddaughter camila about.
What are some short story collections you'd recommend to those people who are averse to reading short stories? Ones that would definitely change their mind about the genre. TE HOLT in the valley of the kings dennis jonson's Jesus Son. maxine hong kingston (memoir) Woman Warrior. Edward P Jones Lost in the CIty Sandra Cisneros Woman Hollering Creek Sherman Alexie Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven Octavia Butler's BloodChild and Other Stories Ted Chiang Stories of You rlife.
Noam Chomsky: yay or nay? I like to think people are more complicated than Y o N but in brief id say Y, way up.
Hey man, thanks for doing this. i am a white girl who would like to shut up and listen more to what life is about for people who don't look like me. your books have been amazing in helping me do that. who are other awesome POC writers you might recommend? Arundhati roy god of small things. patrick chamoiseau. edwidge danticat. noviolet bulawayo. maxine hong kingston (memoir) Woman Warrior. Edward P Jones Lost in the City Sandra Cisneros Woman Hollering Creek Sherman Alexie Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven Octavia Butler's BloodChild and Other Stories Ted Chiang Stories of Your Life.
I read somewhere that many of the students in your MIT class have no idea that you're a famous author. Do you like the relative anonymity? Or are you somewhat surprised/disappointed that they haven't bothered to connect the dots? I love anonymity. why else would i want to spend 3-16 years locked up in a room writing! thank you!
, thanks for writing such magnificent pieces of work. I would have never read your books if not for my wife. Two questions: What's it like when you get noticed out on the street? My wife,Judi, wants to know how you like your café.. Im painfully shy in real life so its awkward. i drink it blank.
Tinto o cafe con leche? red sox or dodgers? futbol or football? marc anthony or juan luis guerra? Myrtle Beach or Venice Beach? name 1 Latina we should all be following (any kind of work). Cafe. mets (sorry). futball and football. JLG. Myrtle. Gina Franco and Aracelis Girmay (poets).
As a resident of Edison, New Jersey, I have to ask, what made you pick Edison for your short story? I have a great fondness for edison. nearby rutgers and emblematic of the ridiculous deep small city diversity that NJ is famous for.
Love your work. There's a lot of personal experience from the work from your own experience and those of others. How much would you say comes from your own personal experiences? Also, do women that read your work view you differently? I assume women read it a lot differently. theyre the ones who often have had to deal most directly with the kind of men i write about. they often have to make lives with these type of jerks, ,are the front-liners, we might say. im not sure a whole lot comes from my life. but enough.
There are some critiques that you haven't capture female characters as well as your male characters (Although I think you did a great job with Lola and Beli in Oscar Wao) Why do you think that is? I can accept that. though i would argue its yunior's inability to see women fully that keeps him from being human. and the question would also be: did i capture the woman narrator of OTRA VIDA, OTRA VEZ? i think i did an ok job. so what might i be saying as an artist, if i can clearly do women to a certain level, if im writing about a guy who cant see them well. there's a difference between what i can capture as a writer and what my narrator's can and in that gap lies the meaning of the book, or at least one of them.
Hi, Junot. I enjoyed "This Is How You Lose Her" very much. Nilda cemented itself in my head for a while, man. It still comes back to me in jagged icy fragments when I'm on the train back home or other mundane everyday-life moments when I'm most free to let my mind wander particularly. The last line of the story, as well as the pacing (incredibly great rhythm to it), hit especially hard. Maybe it resonated so well with me because I've grown up with a few Nildas and, in my early 20s, continue to meet a few damaged, lost-in-the-world, Nilda-esque girls still...and I tend to feel sad and a bit haunted for them. Anyways, your story brought those feelings to life on the page as I read Nilda and I wanted to thank you for that because that is the true power of literature--the symbiosis between reader and writer. Quick question, I was back home this past winter from school and had the wonderful opportunity to hear you speak in Amherst, MA. You mentioned how many young writers are viewing writing through the lens of a career-track or within the realm of the Linked-In universe (I'm paraphrasing). Essentially, the topic was that many young aspiring writers view their craft as a job, a task that will end is $$$ signs. I am a 22 year old recent graduate trying to find food pellets from the universe and one of those sources of nourishment from the cosmos is reading literature and writing. What advice would you give to someone who has seriously thought about pursuing an MFA in creative writing--even though it may not lead to a stable source of income afterwards--and is juggling their passion with the economically rational route of settling with a stable job and writing, since it's something they love, and trying to get published in their free time? I think one cant ask too much of their writing. if you ask it to pay the bills that's a lot of pressure. some people can live under that pressure. many of us cant. its point of view thing really. i was prepared to have a regular job and write by night. it was a miracle that what happened to me happened. point is while youre waiting for a miracle you got to keep your writing not feeling pressure--that's when it does its magic best. and wanting it to save us economically or otherwise is a LOT of pressure. how this can help i dont know but there it is.
As someone who hasn't read your work, what would you recommend I start with? All the books work well as introductions. drown is the darkest. oscar the wildest. how you lose her the closest.
Hi! I'm an up and coming writer and want to put a blend of pop culture and immigrant fiction in my stories. Do you have some tips? Hard to say: dont know the work. i didnt try to do any of that until i master the elemental forces that rule fiction. i knew that if i started bell and whistling before i had the wheels on the car the whole thing would fall apart.
Junot, I was listening to New Order, Joy Division, the Clash, Big Daddy Kane, Special Ed, Afrika Bambaataa.
What music were you listening to when you were a teenager? As for oscar . . . that's a great question . . . david bowie yes but also The Cure. and Metallica! early Metallica for oscar.
Who are Oscar and Yunior's favorite musicians? I always thought Oscar would like David Bowie and 70's prog rock, but I know I'm probably way off. Yunior is hiphop and merengue. JLGuerra a Anthony Santos etc. y los hermanos rosario y raulin . .
Hola Junot, I met you last year at a reading but you probably didn't understand anything I babbled, I was so nervous. I love your work! Thanks for giving PoC a voice in a place where we often get drowned out. As soon as I brush up on my Spanish, I'm going to DR. Fave secrets spots? Also, my boyfriend is Haitian but he loves you (he introduced Oscar Wao to me). Can you two be friends? You are so kind. i love the whole DR. your map will be as good as mine im sure. (but def check out the free concerts in the city if you can.) id be glad to be friends with anyone who would have me!
Hi Mr. Díaz! I greatly admire your fiction and the perspectives you bring to your interviews. You also edit the Boston Review, of course, and I'm curious about that aspect of the work you do. When you read submissions do the stories you then publish announce themselves on a first reading? Do you know a story you want to put out there when you read it or is it much more complicated? Thanks! Stories have to stay with me for at least a week. sometimes one knows right away but the week rule helps.
How does your non-fiction writing influence your fiction? I couldn't help but notice the amount of factual context in Oscar Wao - what literary effect do you think this creates, especially towards the (dramatic, magical) ending? Like many, i always though a little of the real goes a long way in a project thats almost all fake.
Race plays a big factor in your writing. In this short 3.5 minute video on youtube you talk about the effects of colonialism and how white supremacy is inextricably linked with economics. What if the richest and poorest people reflected the racial demographics perfectly? Would this actually make the situation better in Santo Domingo? I would say race plays a big factor in our world. im just reporting it. and to be honest what's going to help a place like the DR or the US is economic justice, real economic justice.
Hi Junot, firstly I wanted to thank you for your work. Being a Latino immigrant myself I identify with your stories and the way you go about relating them. I wanted to take you back to Drown, the first book I got from you nearly 15 years ago, are any if those stories autobiographical in any way? Who are you on those stories? And lastly what books are you reading these days? Drown was a profoundly autobiographical book. yunior, yunior, yunior. and im reading Hilton Als WHITE GIRLS.
I find your work very inspiring, what was the motivation process behind Oscar Wao? I wanted to write about that generation of dominican nerds who went to college. who came up poor and from immigrant families and yet ended up in college. lola. oscar. yunior. and i wanted to connect those extraordinary lives to their deep history of dictatorship and oppression.
Hi Junot! I'm a student at Rutgers and I'm having some difficulty with expository writing... Can you give me any advice? I always say find your writing center and get those folks to give you a ton of guidance and with all things--work hard at it. it gets easier.
I recently read Sherman Alexie's "The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian" and it left quite an impression; it was funny, sad and insightful all at once. The protagonist Junior's sister Mary particularly intrigued me, and I thought of Lola from "Oscar Wao" for some reason. If you've read Alexie's book -- what would Lola say to Mary, if she could? She's probably ask her what's shes reading.
Thank you so much for doing this. You really are such an inspiration for me. I’ve been lending your books to all my friends since I started reading your work, safe to say you have a few new fans! My question for you concerns the concept of loneliness in your works and how/why you keep revisiting (or so it seems when I read these novels) moments of missed connection, of unintentional self-isolation. There is always a current of bittersweet loneliness in all of Junior’s narration, as well as in the other characters and their ability to engage or interact with one another. Is that loneliness something you are trying to draw attention to as problematic for individuals with an immigrant experience like Junior’s or do you think this is a more universal theme, more emblematic of the average young adult’s experience with North American urban life? What brings you back to tropes of loneliness and urban isolation? Thank you again for doing this AMA! I always pictured yunior as being very alone and figured that would be a perfectly existential commonplace to launch a character from. we all know loneliness and living with it is one of our challenges. immigration of course isolates too and so i figured with this one trait i could touch on a lot of things.
Hi! I just wanted to say first that I really, really love your writing. My term paper last year was actually on the roots and use of linguistic code changing in your work. That being said, how much goes into creating that lexicon? Does it come naturally or does it take some experimenting to get the sound totally right? Endless experimenting. way too much i sometimes think. but that's because im slow.
Hello! I love your work, and I actually used an excerpt from Drown yesterday as a demo-lesson for a job interview..I got the job! Thanks! Anyway, I was thinking about pursuing my PhD. My original BA was in Creative Writing, and my Master's degree is in Education. Would I be better of pushing forward with the education PhD or going the creative writing route? Obviously i like both but which one will give me the best chance to be a college professor based on the current and future markets? I think its all about the funding and the status these phd. if you can stand the phd you might as well go for it. sure there are a lot of them on the market but way more mfas . . . but make sure youre getting fully funded . . otherwise be cautious about the debt.
How do you pronounce your first name? Joo (rhymes with Chew) Know. More or less.
If Oscar had a theme song, what would it be? Yunior's? Lola's? Before rutgers. hmmm, probably for oscar joy division's transmission. yunior: my uzi weights a ton.
Lola: radio clash.
After rutgers: lola: joe arroyo no pegue la negra. yunior: black steel in the hour of chaos oscar: monchy y alexandra hojan en blanco.
Is there a book you have read that has been influential in your life, not necessarily your writing?! Of course. the autobiography of malcom x. read it young and it transformed me.
How do you come up with the characters you write? Is there a process or do they more or less come to you? Also, do you feel sympathetic towards Yunior at all, or is he a bad guy after all? I think yunior is human. he's weak and flawed but who isnt.
My characters are the people that stay with me the longest and in their staying they change to be their own original hearts.
What do you think is the biggest challenge in bringing gender equality awareness to Afro-Caribbean cultures? And how do you, as a Dominican man, challenge notions of sexism? Same forces as ever: patriarchy. heteronormativity. misogyny. capitalism. one does what one can--start within and on the outside: organize and raise awareness and organize.
Whatcha reading right now? What authors, aside from yourself, would you recommend? Hilton als: WHITE GIRLS is the shit. also reading edwidge danticat's CLAIRE OF THE SEA LIGHT.
I watched a video with you where you said it took 10 years to write Oscar Wao. At any point did you feel like just throwing in the towel? How many rewrites did it take to get to a point where you felt contended with the story? Oh man. i almost quite a dozen times. actually more than that. here's a little piece i wrote about it which will answer it better than i can here. (hate to do this but i figure it would be more efficient.)
Oh, and thanks for being awesome! Link to
How do you get your news? do you read a lot of news everyday? How much time do you get to spend on reading these days? What was your favorite class in college? did you have one? I read so many papers and feeds in the morning it s nuts. way to waste time.
Hey junot ! I read oscar wao, and these is how you lose her, and although i live far away from the united states, and from any dominican republic, i liked the stories, they were amazingly human and had unexpected turns of events, and in general were awesome. so, i wanted to ask will all your books be about the dominican community in america ? and since i've red your books , it became kind of a topic for me, so what latino writers in the states do you recommend to read ? So far so DR is what i say. which is to say i think so. for latino writers one should read in my opinion: Francisco Goldman. Chloe Aridjis. Los Brothers Hernandez. Cristina Garcia. Ana Castillo. Sandra Cisneros. Oscar Hijuelos. Oscar Casares. Cristina Henriquez. etc.
Do you read Japanese literature and what is your favorite author or book? I do! of course i love murakami but im also a huge fan of Natsuo Kirino (OUT is magnificent) and Hitomi Kanehara's Snakes and Earrings. And Taichi Yamada's books are all amazing (especially Strangers) and of course Yoko Ogawa is a fave of mine.
Long time reader, first time caller. i love your Latino social commentary - terms like "alternatinas" that you use. im curious about Latinos in different parts of the US and how we can be different in the creative arts. in your travels across the US, have you noticed any striking differences among Latinos - like how we receive/respond to your work? are there any waves of Latino writers/subjects you find interesting? whenever i look up books on my kindle i cant find many Latino writers other than international writers - but I want to connect to my US Latino culture more - works like yours. When will you come to Los Angeles? happy hispanic/latino heritage month! We are incredibly diverse. i aint seen but 1% of my community if that so its hard to generalize. over all we just need more artists of all kind and more spaces where we as a community can begin to understand ourselves. the average latino gets like no education on what her community might even look like and so we're stuck bandying around the same old small ideas about who we might be or not. if every latino had a couple of years of ethnic studies courses we'd be in a different place id argue.
Hey Junot Diaz, have you read any Chester Himes at all? Secondly, where does the name Junot come from? I have! so disturbing and good. its a french last name. half my island is french colonized so go figure.
Can you talk a little about the collaboration with Jaime Hernandez? That seems like it would be an amazing opportunity, and I can only imagine (as a fan) that you'd be over the moon that he wanted to work with you. Did you get to sit down and talk with him at all about the illustrations he did? Did he admit to being a fan of your work? You know, that kind of stuff. Actually i didnt want to bother the master at all. i just let him go at it. but i did tell him that he was a god to me and that he inspired all my work, him and his brother. i felt i had nothing to add to his excellence and just wanted to geek out on his interpretations. my greatest dream would be to do a real collaboration one day with the brothers but they're so ON and so dope why would they need to work with anyone else?
Hi Junot! NEWYORICANGIRL here. I just self-published my first book and launched it at La Casa Azul last weekend. What advice do you have for your fellow Hispanic author? Friendly agents, marketing, affinity groups? Would you be willing to mentor me? Sister, i wish i could but time is always absent. id def apply to agents. there's a ton of lists floating around there. and honestly La Casa Azul is the best resource we got these days.
As a bilingual author, is it difficult to incorporate Spanish into your texts? And do you think knowing two languages has helped you in your profession? Language is the great strength of a writer. the more language you have the better. so having two is even better than one. but you still have to work to make it work esppecially when neither language seems to like the other too much.
Other than the ones mentioned explicitly in TBWLOOW, what are your favourite comic books and why? Mister X. Nexus. i like noir and i like rude's art and barron's exploration of the real cost of power in Nexus.
Last updated: 2013-09-25 17:08 UTC
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