On Reading Junot Diaz’s This is How You Lose Her

By on Wednesday, October 3rd, 2012 at 2:33 am

I began reading Diaz’s new book only to think, “haven’t I read this already.” And then it occurred to me, that really, I’ve read this book twice already. His short story collection, Drown, is more or less a rough draft for the narrative of his critically acclaimed, award winning The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. Sure, there are differences between these first two books — character names are different, the broader story of Oscar Wao follows a distinct plot line separate from anything happening in his short stories. But the characters themselves, the people represented in these stories, are more or less the same.

And that comes to This Is How You Lose Her, a new book revisiting the same themes, style, characters, events, diction, of his other books. Sure, Yunior is older, more contemptible and perhaps the stakes are higher. Or not really higher, as much as they are focused on broken hearts and failed relationships.

Three Diaz books later, and mostly I’ve learned that Dominican men are assholes who mistreat women, and that everyone should accept this behavior has a cultural quirk. There is no new dynamic introduced here, no new conceptual elements. Perhaps his prose and narrative pacing have continued to mature, but rereading the same stories over and over again seems a tiresome exercise in rendundancy.

The most telling psychoanalytical tic comes in the final story chronicling what seems to be a straightforward confessional following a failed relationship while Yunior is in Cambridge. This narrative is told in the second person serving to further distance Diaz from the text and preventing him from engaging the emotional response in a meaningful way. In some respects, this story was perhaps the most honest, and yet the artificial distance created by the choice of narrative perspective suggests maybe he wasn’t quite ready.

Diaz is scheduled read at Bookcourt on Tuesday, October 23rd at 7pm.

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