In recent years, in fact for some time now, my reading choices have been driven by one key criteria. The author must not be English. Of course, there may have been the odd exception but they have been rare indeed. I know enough about England and it’s class system, thank you. I’ve had enough period drama. I don’t need any more text speak. WTF.
I browse for international authors ie. non-english, but it goes without saying that where necessary they have to be translations. I am also a devotee of the short story. I love them. A well executed short story is like an exquisite painting. Complete in it’s suggestions, it’s implications, and as satisfying as licking chocolate from a cake spoon.
Driven by these maxims it was some years ago I discovered a new writer as I wandered the shelves of my local bookstore. Looking for non-English names I came across “Drown” by Junot Diaz. A collection of short stories set in the Dominican Republic from where Diaz hails. There were only two boxes to tick and “Drown” graced the score sheet in bold type. Short stories and not English. Bingo.
I was blown away. “Drown” is superb. Then there was silence for a while as I waited and waited for the next Junot Diaz book and then comes along the Pulitzer Prize winning “The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao” . Now I am hooked. I await Diaz stories like a fan awaits an album from his favourite band.
Hot off the presses is his new collection “This is how you leave her” – a collection of short stories around love, heartbreak, passion and loss.
The themes are universal. It is the characters and their reactions and realities that keep us coming back to these stories. Save for a couple of tales there is a single thread running through them all – the life and loves of Yunior, a young Dominican struggling through his teenage urges in New Jersey.There are butterflies and nervousness, lusts and innocence, explorations and infidelity.
Here, Diaz describes “Miss Lora”, or rather Yunior does……..
“Miss Lora was too skinny. Had no hips whatsoever. No breasts either, no ass, even her hair failed to make the grade .She had her eyes, sure,but what she was most famous for in the neighbourhood were her muscles .Not that she had huge ones like you – chick was just wiry like a motherfucker, every single fibre standing out in outlandish definition. Bitch made Iggy Pop look chub, and every summer caused a serious commotion at the pool. Always a bikini despite her curvelessness, the top stretching over those corded pectorals and the bottom cupping a rippling fan of haunch muscles. Always swimming underwater, the black waves of her hair flowing behind her like a school of eel. Always tanning herself(which none of the other women did)into the deep lacquered walnut of an old shoe. That woman needs to keep her clothes on, the mothers complained. She’s like a plastic bag full of worms. But who could take their eyes off her?
Hair flowing like a school of eel.
Junot Diaz’s writing is crisp and entertaining. There is liveliness and there is sadness. A truly excellent collection that will leave characters and their, sometimes, hopeless lives hanging in your mind for weeks after you read about them, just wondering, just wondering, how much of all of this is from truth.
Read it. It’s a goodie………. (and then make sure read the others)
(Junot Diaz is currently Professor of Creative Writing at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and lives in Boston……….and I’ve have him round for dinner.)
13 thoughts on “Book Review: “This is how you lose her” – Junot Diaz”
Wow, what a great piece.. I actually have his new book on my “books-I-must-read” list.. Thanks for this review!!!
Thanks, Lynne. Get to it. You won’t be disappointed.
Thanks! I now have a new author to get. Diaz sounds wonderful and you did a great post!
Thank you, Chris, for dropping by and commenting. I’m sure you’ll enjoy Junot Diaz. He is worth the effort of sitting down, with a nice cup of coffee, and spending some quality time with.
Junot Diaz is one of the founders of VONA, the writing workshop I attended in 2010. It’s crazy because I have friends who’ve worked with him, and I get regular updates about his (and other amazing writers’) work via the VONA alum Facebook groups. 🙂 If you’re looking for more non-English writers you might check the VONA faculty page: http://voicesatvona.org/Faculty_2012.html 🙂
Thanks, Lisa, I will.
Great Post Al, Diaz sounds good…more to read.. thanks 🙂
After reading this post, I immediately went and checked on a couple of local book websites for availability and was disappointed at the lack of Junot Diaz anywhere in Karachi 😦
But Huz downloaded an ebook and I’m trying to download a reader on my machine, so there you go! (the things I do for my bloggy friends…!) 🙂
I am well impressed, Mun. I really hope you like it. It’s pretty fast paced in parts and then thought provoking at the end. Just what you want in a good book.
Just finished reading ‘This is how you lose her’…..it was a riveting read. Loved it, or as much as you can love writing that leaves you reeling a bit. Thought I’d drop by your blog (how are you…??) and let you know!
Revisiting your blog and all its contents on one page reminded me how very cool you and your blog are. 🙂
Hi Mun, lovely to hear from you (and you look beautiful in your new Gravatar, may I say). I’m glad you liked the book. Junot Diaz won some top short story prize this year, can’t quite remember which, but his pocket was justly lined. I’m good. I have found myself in full time employment recently, not faffing around with guitar woods but a proper job that pays money, so have found little time to blog or even catch up on others. But oddly enough I was wondering recently what happened to our little cyber-gang that we had. You, Ré,Lisa at satsumabug (who I know is travelling), Z, Jared et al. We all seem to have dried up at the same time, or am I out of touch and just behind the pace ? Maybe I’ll post about it and see if old bloggers come back. Thank you for the last sentence – you are very kind. Stay well and safe. Believe it or not I always think of you and your family when Karachi is on the news. When is Coke Studio resurfacing ? Must check it out. 🙂
Great review! And cool covers!