Junot Díaz burst into the literary world with Drown, a collection of indelible stories that revealed a major new writer with the "eye of a journalist and the tongue of a poet" (Newsweek). His eagerly awaited first novel, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, arrived like a thunderclap, topping best-of-the-year lists and winning a host of major awards, including the Pulitzer Prize. Now Díaz turns his prodigious talent to the haunting, impossible power of love.
The stories in This Is How You Lose Her, by turns hilarious and devastating, raucous and tender, lay bare the infinite longing and inevitable weaknesses of our all-too-human hearts. They capture the heat of new passion, the recklessness with which we betray what we most treasure, and the torture we go through - "the begging, the crawling over glass, the crying" - to try to mend what we've broken beyond repair. They recall the echoes that intimacy leaves behind, even where we thought we did not care. They teach us the catechism of affections: that the faithlessness of the fathers is visited upon the children; that what we do unto our exes is inevitably done in turn unto us; and that loving thy neighbor as thyself is a commandment more safely honored on platonic than erotic terms. Most of all, these stories remind us that the habit of passion always triumphs over experience, and that "love, when it hits us for real, has a half-life of forever."
©2012 Junot Díaz (P)2012 Penguin Audiobooks
I loved the story and narration of Oscar Wao and here Diaz's style and figurative language are still touching and beautiful. However, in "This is How You Lose Her" I didn't feel like any of the characters grew or developed from their experiences and it felt frustrating and unsatisfactory in the end.
Then there's the narration. Why not bring back Jonathan Davis from Oscar Wao? Junot Diaz was stilted and stumbled through his own gorgeous writing. He seemed to have approached it like a book reading at a promo event. Listening to that tone and pace for five hours was rough.
If you're a fan of his writing get the book and don't bother with this recording.
Yunior (Diaz's alter ego) is doggiest of dogs: a compulsive womanizer, he nonetheless falls in love with one serious, ambitious woman after another, each of whom eventually leaves him with not a glance back. He suffers greatly -- the last story in the collection features a Job-like catalog of sufferings -- but also energetically, hilariously, floridly. Reading this book reminded me that depression is an intensely active state. Yunior is flailing and drowning in his own misery and chaos, but also in the misery and chaos of his history, that of his fellow Dominicans and of the immigrant experience. And he's also glorying in it, with an acuity of observation and a jazz-like ecstasy of description that is profane, filthy, funny and beautiful. He's a mess, and he's a searching mess. Diaz touches upon many possible sources of Yunior's dysfunction, but is too shrewd and humane to manufacture insight, to tie it up with a bow and present it to Yunior or to the reader. You don't want to do more than touch, lightly, bruises so fresh and deep.
Let's begin with the fact that Junot Diaz is an excellent writer and for his own work, he's a pretty listenable reader also. Wouldn't want to hear him read Lord of the Rings, but for this type of story and dialect he nails it.
But honestly, not everyone is going to want to listen to this. The main male characters of the book are so profoundly disrespectful to females and so assinine in their behavior towards women that after awhile it gets hard to take. Women defined as p***y, defined by their sexual attributes -- over and over and over-- well, it stops mattering that it is well-written after awhile. It probably works for many readers, but personally I lose interest in "sexual escapades as great literature" fairly fast. I felt a little pity for the main character, but mostly I just despised him.
I listened to the end because 1.) I wondered if there would be some great redeeming moment (not so much) and 2.) There are many short stories and some are more engaging than others. But forewarning,much of this may be offensive to many women listeners. It's not for everyone.
I am extremely moved by the writing of Junot Diaz. What a gift this man has. He speaks his truth from his heart and gut. These stories are raw and vulnerable, filled with what it's like to be a young Dominican man in and out of love and lust, both the highs and lows. These stories are powerful and I wanted more. I loved his first novel and I loved these short stores. I wish for more. His writing is art. I think he is an excellent writer, story teller, artist, he is full of soul.
This book while very short is still very good. Great characters and great descriptions and quips from the characters but it seems played out. I feel Drown and Brief Wonderous Life of Oscar Wao were better but i still listened to this straight through. Would rather of had the silk voiced Jonathan Davis read it also but Diaz is still a good narrator. What I would like is for DIaz to write a sci fi book with Dominicans on the Moon or Mars. Some new settings and characters would be great.
No, there are too many other books out there to read. I gave this a try because I have heard so much about this author but I just didn't respond to the material.
Christopher Isherwood's A Single Man.
Gritty. Crass. Machismo.
The first one, the Dominican man with the New Jersey girlfriend.
I think Diaz is trying to convey sharp voices and characters through the lens of their ethnic identities. While this can be engaging, if I want that I will just read David Foster Wallace, who does the same with more lilting and nuanced voices, a little less raunch and more overall beauty and heart in terms of the actual writing.
This man can write! Even when he is absorbed in his own misery, he writes in such a raw and honest manner that it is riveting- even when all he can do is pen a memoir. This is a sad collection of stories - about his mother and father, and especially his older brother. This is a about what he learned from each of them and how the lessons he learned have played out over the course of his life. It could also be said that this is a collection of stories that lament how hard it is to trust, to give of oneself, and to love without worrying about what you will get in return.
Although the title of the book would suggest that it is a collection of stories about lovers and love lost - and it is - it is even more about what it means to lose one's roots (in the Dominican Republic), one's family, and one's sense of self - and how these losses ultimately make it so hard to love another. Sad, thoughtful, painfully honest.
To the extent that there was anything about this book I didn't like, it would be that it was too short. And that he referred to himself in the third person in several stories. It is as if he still can't fully absorb and integrate who he is - as if this story is about someone else that he is still getting to know.
Diaz has also disproved the common wisdom that authors should not narrate their own work. He did a great job. If you have sensitive ears and don't like vulgar language (in Spanish and English!) or don't want to see the inside of a cheater's heart, this is not the book for you.
This book actually depressed me, but not for the reasons it was intended to. Sure, the main character is supposed to be an anti-hero who cheats on his girlfriends. He's barely likable, and really only for his incorrigible inability to make good choices or learn anything from his mistakes. The level of filthy detail makes me feel like it was autobiographical, which leads me to the deeper issue here: how every male in this story treats women. Misogyny is an understatement, as if the author does not even realize that objectification is just as dangerous as discrimination. The prose style is smooth, with plenty of Spanish words sprinkled throughout. I can see why he is respected in the literary community - although I'm pretty happy to not be in this man's cabeza anymore.
I recognize Junot Diaz is winning every critical award in American Literature these days, but there is so little to redeem this characters or the story line. I've attempted both of Diaz's latest works, and it's just not for me.
YES!!!!!!! This audiobook experience comes together perfectly. The story is classic Junot Diaz with characters that are alive and kicking with non-negotiable street cred. You get front-row views into the comedy and pain of their situations, and location descriptions that make you feel like you're standing in the middle of the action.
Junot Diaz as a reader is surprisingly fantastic! He reads the stories at the right pace, injecting the spanish slang words with just the right emphases, and altogether convincingly brings to life the Yunior character.
The bachata music before the first story and in between the stories set the right mood for the poignant, heartbreaking stories, allowing them to flow into each other seamlessly.
A vicious description of one of Rafa's ex-girlfriends, Tammy Franco. She's a tertiary character and yet Junot is able to commit her to his readers' memory in a few words. He describes the abusive relationship that she has with Rafa as a "two-year-long public-service announcement", and even details how she gets physically exposed and publicly humiliated when Rafa drags her by the hair in a parking lot in a fit of temper. Yet she never actually stops loving him. Descriptions like these are testament to Junot's ability to create memorable characters, and his unflinching ability to present the EVIL in the characters that we LOVE and desperately want to root for, characters like the cancer-ailing Rafa. There are no monsters and there are no angels, even the "good" people are fundamentally flawed.
In "Invierno", the story of a the child Yunior after first relocating to New Jersey from the Dominican republic-- there's a scene in which his mother tries to practice English with his father, and he shuts her down mercilessly with "You don't have to learn. Besides the average woman can't learn English." This unbearable disrespect and a lack of empathy towards his wife is especially heartbreaking because the people we love and depend on to help us the most are most times the ones who break us the most. They can and sometimes use the power we give them over us to keep us down and disillusion us. It is worse than anything an enemy can do to us.
Junot Diaz is one of the best writers of our time. I look forward to reading (and listening) to whatever he has next.
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