Rachel Rochester's Reviews > This Is How You Lose Her

This Is How You Lose Her by Junot Díaz
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Sep 13, 2012

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As a huge fan of both Drown and The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, I was eager to get my hands on this collection of linked short stories. With books that loom on the horizon for ages, the hype surrounding them sometimes seems to doom them from the start. It took Diaz nearly sixteen years to complete This is How You Lose Her, and perhaps the wait lead me to expect too much. I expected something fresh and original. Instead, I was faced with a collection of gritty, masculine snapshots of the life of a misogynistic Dominican man living in the United States. Somehow, I can't shake the feeling that I've read this book before. Which is not to say that the book itself is not simultaneously graceful and gruff, or that it does not have the power to move and teach -- it is simply to say that it is no longer inventive.

Perhaps it is unfair of me to criticize Diaz for being, somehow, too much himself in this collection. In a recent interview with Michele Filgate, Diaz admitted what most readers will have assumed: his go-to protagonist Yunior is "a hypertonic distorted extension" of the author himself. My tolerance for authors writing thinly veiled memoirs has begun to wear thin in recent literary seasons, and here I was hopeful that Diaz might branch out. That being said, the most jarring segment of this book comes in the story "Otravida, Otravez," in which Diaz attempts to take on the voice of a female speaker. The style is so indistinguishable from the rest of the male-narrated stories that I initially assumed I was reading about an unlikely homosexual relationship. Diaz is excellent at voicing the thoughts of a cerebral, incorrigible philanderer, but his interpretation of women's hurt seems distant and dishonest. So much so, that I was relieved when the rest of the text returned to form, and Diaz stopped attempting exactly what I'd wished for: something different.

Overall, I enjoyed this book, and it delivered exactly what Diaz has always promised his readers. But Diaz is a writer of so much raw talent that I expected his virtuosity to have grown new shoots in the past several years. I was disappointed to see that he did not.
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Sandy This sums up my reaction almost exactly!

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