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“It’s just so raw,” my grandmother said as she glanced back through the pages. “I only got to page 20. Just page 20, but I was happy to be there.” 

While studying the art of writing, I paid very little attention to the art of reading. I focused on the craft of it, the process of it, as opposed to the purpose of it – to connect, to reveal and to inspire. I define good writing by my grandmother. She has little time for games or conventions. She couldn’t give a damn about the latest trends in narrative fiction, or the musings of distant theorists and philosophers. She has lived her life, a hard life, and now as it draws nearer to its final climax, all she wants is a good story.

Isn’t that what we all want? A good story, the opportunity to dissolve our present within another’s? To experience a world beyond our own if only to illuminate the shadows and corners our imaginations left unseen, unheard? Very few books have that I have read have demanded this level of active commitment. Many books have entertained me, brought me to tears, enraged me, moved me, inspired me, etc. But none have illuminated me. None have left me thrilled by the power of language, none have left me burning with the weight of stories yet to be told. Until now.

The books that I read pass through my grandmother’s hands first. If she approves, they come into mine. And that is how I came into Junot Diaz’s latest book, This is How You Lose Her.

Diaz is a brilliant storyteller. From the first sentence, I was captivated, not only by the quality and power of his story, but by its artistry. Wrapped within his prose, sentences ceased to be sentences, paragraphs were no longer paragraphs. I no longer conceived of the words, but was encompassed by the moments, faces and memories described by his language. The page disentigrated and I was transported. 

I tell my students that the purpose of writing, the art of narrative, depends upon connections. A story isn’t read; it is experienced.

Diaz skill lies in his ability to transcend language – to use language to get beyond language. One of the greatest challenges that I have encountered as a writer: my words tend to get in the way of the story I’m trying to tell. Diaz, damn him, has found a way.

The strength of a story lies in its characters, their ability to create windows as well as mirrors that instantly transport their readers while reflecting them, all of them. When faced with our own reflections, both as individuals and as a culture, we often turn away. It’s far easier to see and digest our own humanity through a veil, a mask of words and metaphors that turn the experience of it all into a distant memory. Diaz’s prose, as my grandmother notes, is raw. There is no veil, no mask or metaphor. There is simply the reflection, a living reflection that shifts, moves and bends the way that light can when faced with the pressures of time, doubt and our own uncertainty.

This eye turns towards the impossible depths of love – its obsessions, insecurities and triumphs. Centered on the trials of Yunior, whose passion is matched only by his recklessness. This is How You Lose Her is study of the connections that define us, the moments that become us, and the relationships that enable us to exist and persist within our own lawless chaos. 

I was captivated by its clarity and its expansiveness, the means by which time slips and spirals in and then, back out pressing its edges out against memory, against presence.

This is How You Lose Her is a powerful exercise in language and memory. It’s characters live within our imaginations, painting a vivid history too often lost, abandoned or ignored. The critical eye of a historian and the tongue of a poet, Diaz further establishes himself as a master of the story.

To those who adore, appreciate or aspire to find the story within our words – read this book.

This is How You Lose Her is available for purchase at amazon.com: http://www.amazon.com/This-How-You-Lose-Her/dp/1594487367

 

 

 

 

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