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ALMA and the most enviable way to become a professor at MIT

November 25 2013 , Written by Wing-Fai Thi Published on #book reviews

What means “ALMA” for you? If you are an astronomer, you immediately think of the Atacama Large Millimeter Array in Chile. But if you are not, it may be the tunnel in Paris where Lady Diana had her fatal accident. If you are an historian, you may recognize the location of a battle during the Crimean war. For me, the three would come into my mind but since I read the book “This is how to loose her” (in French “Guide du loser amoureux”) by Junot Diaz, ALMA is a Dominican-American girl with a big “a..e”.

The first thing that attracted me at the bookstore was the jacket and the title. Something of a paradox.  From the title I thought about a cheesy romantic novel. But then the author received a Pulitzer price in 2007.

When I read a random chapter (actually the one about ALMA), it was a punch on my face. The style is simply exhilarating, with no compromise, no political correctness, just the raw thoughts of an urban cultivated Dominican-American.  What is the book about? The book is a collection of stories about an infidel man living in Boston. Not simply an infidel man but a University professor called Yunior.

Some journalists praised the prose and the style but criticized the depiction of the female characters. Should the author of a fiction stay politically correct while the personality of his characters requires a more controversial style? The author just wanted to stay true. At the end not all women behave like in the book and most men would not cheat on their girlfriend 50 times in six years! I just enjoyed the book.

But for me the most mind-blowing fact is that the author is professor of creative writing at MIT. He is “allowed” and paid to write such a book with such a style so far from our boring articles, reports, and proposals. He has an enviable position but well he has such a talent!

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