Junot Diaz is having a good month; so far he has won $500,000 from the MacArthur grant people, and he was nominated for the National Book Award for fiction.
I can't stand Diaz's writing. I've tried to read all his books, and can't get past the first few pages. This makes me feel weird, because I like to think I can read anything, and if many people like a writer, then I should too. But it hasn't worked out well between Diaz and me.
Diaz has a unique voice in his prose; that's as fair as I can be about his work. It's apparent from his first sentences that a "unique voice" is present. What he doesn't have--at least to me--are interesting characters involved in interesting stories. I'm tired of voices, and the trend of so-called literary people demanding "unique literary voices" in fiction.
Whenever I think about EM Forster (and I do that a lot these days, don't ask me why) I think about Lucy Honeychurch from A Room with a View. I think about all she thinks and says and does in that book, a book that is wrongly viewed as a lesser achievement than Howards End and A Passage to India, other Forster novels. Lucy is unique. Her voice, and not Forster's, matters to me. Forster, at times, interject his narrator's voice, but only to advance his characters or to clumsily interrupt the story. In truth, I never think about Forster; I think about Lucy.
A voice might win prizes, but it can also annoy the hell out of a reader.