One of those things about that Tournament of Books forgotten by everyone except an obsessive weirdo like me that really bugged me was:
If we are all nerds, then The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao is about all of us. Likewise, the strange, fascinating Savage Detectives is about other people—other, cooler people (poets! “Visceral Realist” poets!) leading more interesting, cooler lives.
No. Wrong. The Savage Detectives was misread by this person. These “other, cooler people” were fuck-ups and failures. Most of them died, insane, miserable and/or broke. Some died just as violently as Oscar. Whatever… it’s the “If we are all nerds” that bugged me more.
Junot Díaz comes across as a decent, honest guy, and his “nerd” credentials are stellar. When i read the reference to Oscar playing Aftermath!, a game that i’d never knew about other than from ads in Dragon magazine, i was impressed. However, again, since the rise of the internet, the self-infatuation of “nerds” has been suffocating. If you give the secret handshake, you can cruise a long way just by being part of the tribe. If Díaz wants to write about Grand Theft Auto IV, that’s cool, but it’s not going to make me like his novel more.
However, if we’re going to play this game of allegiance to writers through a kind of tribal affinity of nerdery, Roberto Bolaño has worked Avalon Hill games into two books, as well as the odd-in-retrospect game Escape from Colditz.
NLitA‘s Gustavo Borda is a funny pisstake on several libertarian sci-fi authors and Zach Sodenstern is a post-Randian, post-apocalyptic writer. (This feels like a cross between Harlan Ellison’s A Boy & His Dog and L. Ron Hubbard’s Battlefield Earth.))
NLitA‘s Max Mirebalias’ first heteronym was Max Kasimir. Sound a little familiar? It’s almost certainly a reference to the Casimir Effect and the twin paradox, now co-opted by Lost.
The skywriting murderer-poet Alberto Ruiz-Tagle of Distant Star becomes Carlos Weider, creator of an obscure, byzantine wargame detailing the War of the Pacific, object of interest for members of the Philip K. Dick Society.
He might have been a globetrotting junky who fancied himself a poet, but he didn’t have any fear of indulging in some nerdy pasttimes.