"One bright day...he will wake up and decide it's all wrong...I'm sorry he'll say. I have to leave now.",
This review is from: This Is How You Lose Her (Kindle Edition)
Consisting of nine short stories, all of which are about love, This is How You Lose Her describes whole worlds within the title itself. Four of the stories are named for the speaker's lovers, and all of them reflect the speaker's inability to experience love on a plane higher than that of the physical, which drives every aspect of his life. With Yunior, who appeared in Diaz's first story collection, Drown, and in The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, as a speaker in many of these stories, the narratives move back and forth in time, and for anyone who has read the biography of the author in Wikipedia or elsewhere, they become almost spooky in their closeness to the biography of the author himself.
Many settings parallel those in which Diaz himself lived, beginning with his initial arrival from the Dominican Republic with his mother and brother, and their stay in New Jersey with a father/husband they have not seen in five years. Later references place him in Brooklyn, at Rutgers, and finally in Cambridge and Boston where he is working for his PhD. The intense feelings aroused by these vividly described settings suggest that other aspects of Yunior's life may also parallel that of the author. As the speaker, be it Yunior (the author's apparent alter-ego) or some other character, moves from one unsuccessful relationship to another in these stories, the reader cannot help but feel sorry for the degree to which hopes are dashed and women are used (willingly in most cases) and later hurt as a result of the male character's insensitivity and ignorance of what he might have done wrong.
Throughout the collection, the various speakers reflect their fondness for Santo Domingo and their Dominican heritage, sometimes noting with affection their "blackness" in comparison to the lighter complexions of some of the women they meet. Even when these women are Spanish-speaking, some notation usually appears indicating what other country these woman may have come from, along with the differences in their cultures. Having been exposed to many different cultural groups and many kinds of slang during his childhood and adolescence, Diaz incorporates Spanish street slang, obscenities in multiple languages, and the offensive anatomical colloquialisms of "male-speak" frequently heard in hip-hop and hard rock, in contrast to the very different language of academia. All these "languages" combine here into an unusual "stew" which gives vibrancy and a sense of real life to the dialogue.
None of these slang terms are translated for those who do not share the speaker's background, however, and though they add color and atmosphere, and perhaps, even humor for those who do understand the jargon, they can be frustrating for those who do not. The changes of point of view from speaker to speaker, with the author occasionally interjecting himself into the story, sometimes prevent a reader from identifying closely with particular characters, though the fate of Rafa, Yunior's brother, is sadly memorable, however briefly it may be discussed in the stories. Ultimately, I came to appreciate the author's style and the almost naïve intensity with which he recreates stories of love and loss and lessons learned (maybe) along with his hopes for the future.