DELVING DEEPER INTO THE JUNOT DIAZ CONTROVERSY
(Best-selling novelist Peter Straub.)
DEFENDERS of the accusers in the Junot Diaz matter have said, “Forget her past history. What of the Monica Byrne accusation itself?”
What of it? Byrne’s date for the evening, Eugene Fischer, backs Monica’s version implicitly. Then again, he also fully backed Carmen Maria Machado’s version of her encounter with Diaz, and that’s been contradicted by the recorded audio.
Noted novelist Peter Straub was present at the Byrne-Diaz encounter, and has given his testimony on Facebook. In a tweet, Monica Byrne has referred to Straub as an “OWM.” Old White Male. Straub is old in at least one sense. While his books may be filled with irrationality, Straub is still living in a world which believes in the quaint notion of objective reality. When he said, in a twitter exchange with Monica, that there was room for different perspectives on a past event, Byrne set him straight.
In the new politicized world of arts and letters there is room for only ONE version of events– that fueled by emotion and ideology.
A KEY PART of Monica Byrne’s statement on the event, released to the world on Facebook May 4th, this year, is this paragraph referring to Junot Diaz:
His voice had risen to a shout. He literally shouted the word “rape” in my face. This is after knowing me for maybe ten minutes. His response was completely bizarre, disproportionate, and violent. I was speechless and felt sick. I would have, anyway, but this was also only two weeks after I’d been sexually assaulted in Belize.
THIS has been taken to mean by at least one Diaz defender on twitter that Byrne was suffering from a kind of PTSD, and so overreacted when he disagreed with her.
Which raises the question: What WAS Monica Byrne’s state of mind going into her April 4, 2014 encounter with Junot Diaz?
FACT IS we have a kind of recorded narrative of Monica Byrne’s outlook in the month leading up to April 4th, including her vacation in Belize. A series of snapshots– her tweets. I’ve counted 258 tweets made by Monica in the month leading up to April 4, 2014. That is, 3/4 through 4/3.
BEGIN TO READ a stream of Monica Byrne tweets and you find yourself swamped in egocentrism. Every feeling, thought, mood, whim; every review or note from her agent; every encounter on the beach on Belize; every pizza slice– sunburn, virus, cave expedition, karaoke– is displayed in that twitter stream.
What does it tell us?
Leading up to her argument with Junot Diaz, Monica Byrne was in an excessively good mood.
On vacation in Belize– who wouldn’t be happy? PLUS, her novel was about to come out. This tweet, from two days before encountering Diaz:
But what of her feelings toward men? Was she fearful or damaged?
PERHAPS the most revealing tweet about her mindset toward men in the days leading up to April 4th is this one.
BUT!? But, but what of the sexual assault in Belize– a key part of her anti-Diaz narrative? Where is that?
Perusal of the tweets reveals two possibilities. First was a young man hitting on Monica.
The other was when a boy on the beach also made a pass at her. This a little better fits her timeline of two weeks before April 4th. (Well, it’s three-and-a-half weeks.) Monica finds this encounter hilarious.
THE BEST barometer is how she felt ON THE VERY DAY that she would later meet Junot Diaz. We have evidence about that as well.
She’d been at a book signing for her new novel the evening before. If she wasn’t quite ready to arm wrestle every man in sight, her confidence, her self-esteem, was hardly lacking. Pulitzer Prize or no Pulitzer Prize, she was scarcely in a state to be intimidated by a moderately well-known author. As she was not at all intimidated by the better known author Peter Straub. Monica Byrne in fact had– and has– a substantial support system. Friends not only with award-winning science fiction writer Eugene Fischer– who was with her at the Diaz dinner– but also with some of the biggest names in the sci-fi game like John Scalzi.
BUT WHAT of the most damaging statement against Junot Diaz in her 2018 statements– that he shouted “RAPE!” at her? If not at all traumatized before going into the 2014 dinner, was she traumatized afterward?
She was perturbed, sure. Disappointed in Junot Diaz? Likely. But there’s no evidence in any of her tweets immediately after the encounter that it was a shattering experience. Also no mention– none– at that point of time of him shouting in her face the word “rape.” Her main complaint, at that time, seems to be that he was disrespectful, dismissive, arrogant.
If every well-known author be dismissed from his-or-her jobs for being arrogant, there might not be anyone left! (Not an all-bad idea, actually.)
-Karl Wenclas on the New Pop Lit News beat.
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