This is How You Lose Her
by Junot Díaz
narrated by the author
Penguin Audio, 2012
5 hours 14 minutes
source: review copy from publisher
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."
My semi-connected thoughts on these loosely connected stories:
- Wow, I have never heard so many f-bombs in a single book before!
- Maybe this isn't for me after all...
- But the stories are so compelling.
- And I love it when an author is also a good narrator. It means the reader experiences the book the way it is meant to sound.
- I wonder how much of this is autobiographical.
- These stories are so sad...
- The juxtaposition of the crude and the academic is surprisingly effective.
- This guy can really write! I need to get a copy of The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao.
Read or listen?
If you are at all inclined toward this book (and you really should be), listen - definitely. There is a great deal of power and emotion conveyed in the words, especially when spoken by an author who knows how they are supposed to sound.
Junot Díaz is clearly a huge talent. With lots of bad language and sexual references, these stories will not have universal appeal. However, if this relatively conservative 50-something reader warmed up to them, I suspect almost anyone can.