Holy cannoli on a flying Popsicle stick.
I never got around to reading Oscar Wao
mostly because I never got around to it and a little because I was concerned that I simply wouldn't be able to relate to a story about a nerdy teenage boy living in what Diaz himself describes as the ghetto. But, I heard that it was good (you know, in that Pulitzer-winning way) and then there was increased buzz around this latest collection of short stories. Somehow, I was the first person on the library reserve list. I can't believe I'd ever hesitate on something like this - I flipping tore through this thing like my life depended on it. I didn't even notice that I accidentally doubled the length of my lunch break because of it.
A series of short stories centered on the theme of lost love, This is How You Lose Her
packs an enormous punch. Many stories involve Yunior, who also appeared in Diaz's previous works, but some focus on new characters as well. Those latter stories falter a little bit for me, but that's mostly because Yunior's felt so much like Diaz opening his veins and pouring his blood out onto the pages. The story featuring the titular line is four pages long and features no real action, but it was chilling in its emotion. I couldn't shake the fact that it was simply the author expressing his regret over a relationship he fucked up once upon a time.
So much regret in these pages, and so much heart. Some of the characters lack the self-awareness I'd love to see, but I suppose that drives home the authenticity of the narrative. After all, who's really self-aware when they're struggling to hold together a failing relationship? Regardless of the severity, loss and heartbreak are, sadly, two of the world's few truly universal experiences. Junot Diaz absolutely nails it. Maybe it speaks to where I am in my life at the moment, but I am baffled at the idea that anyone can read this book and not feel something.
This collection gets my most enthusiastic recommendation.