DO YOU COME TO SOME CONCLUSIONS ABOUT CANCER, SINCE YOU BROUGHT THAT UP? Well, yeah. I've certainly come to some realizations about my own experience with having a brother with cancer. The idea which I had when I was young, but really when I was writing this book it kind of reinforced it, was that, you know, when one is young and someone in your family has terminal cancer, you are transported to an entirely different world. It's like a world outside of the normal rules. I mean I jokingly, with my siblings, used to call it Cancer Planet, because it's a different place altogether, slightly askew from our world. Nobody wants to come near you.
Like 90 percent of what you would call your friends and family disappear. But you know, other things happen, too. You suddenly discover the strength and companionship and solidarity of people you never would have imagined.
WHY DOES YOU CHARACTER YUNIOR HAVE TO PUT HIS INFIDELITY IN WRITING FOR ALL HIS GIRLFRIENDS TO DISCOVER? Some people, I imagine — some people don't give a fuck and are not conflicted. But for Yunior it's clearly a great conflict. In many ways his sort of foundational injury is that he belongs to a family whose father was unfaithful, whose father's infidelity tore the family apart. It's not good for him because it doesn't lead him to the thing that he sort of wants, which is intimacy — real, profound intimacy.
He doesn't seem to be able to get it by kind of fucking around on all the girls in his life. And I think part of Yunior's thing — and I think it's both unconscious and then later, by the end, becomes conscious — is an attempt to expose himself. And by the end of the book it's an attempt to bear witness to the person that did all of this, the person that participated in all these kind of hurtful treacheries and betrayals.
By the end, we realize that one thing Yunior is very good at is bearing witness. He's quite good at noticing things that are very fucked up in our society and to admitting his role in it. And part of what I think readers find so disturbing about Yunior is that they would like him so much more if he stopped fucking incriminating himself.
But the reason I like Yunior and see hope in him is because, unlike most guys, who try to hide all their trespasses and sort of shave the edges off of who they are, Yunior tries to be very, very frank about what he was and who he used to be and also who he might still be.
MACHISMO SEEMS TO RUIN SOME OF THE MALE CHARACTERS IN YOUR BOOK. WHAT'S BEEN YOUR EXPERIENCE WITH MACHISMO, IS THAT SOMETHING YOU HAD TO CONQUER? I'm not sure that I know what the term means, because Yunior's masculinity is a New Jersey one. The joke for me is always that people tend to see masculinity in everyone else. So Americans will be like, "Oh my God, he's Latin — machismo" or "Oh my God, he's sort of hyper-masculine African-American male." Listen, for me as an immigrant, the one thing that was perfect continuity from the Dominican Republic to the United States was that this masculinity was exactly, exactly, exactly the same.