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I’m not a fan of Junot Diaz. After reading Drown and The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, I gave up on trying to understand what all the fuss is about. Some writers just aren’t for you. His style, characters and stories are not for me. But then he won the MacArthur Genius Grant for his latest book and instead of scratching my head off I figured may as well read it to understand why.

I borrowed This is How You lose Her from the library ready to read it so hard, ready to study it like an optical illusion that looks like a soggy sandwich until you relax your eyes long enough to see that it’s really the mother of all dragons trying to eat a unicorn.

this is how you lose her

At least the title is catchy. The concept of broken love stories mostly from a man’s perspective is intriguing enough. The physical book is narrow and mercifully short. And that sums up what I liked about it.

This is a series of shorts starring Junior. If you’ve read Diaz before, you already know Junior. Go on and settle in for more of the same woe is me for cheating, I grew up in a poor immigrant family and really want you, reader, to know how well I use profanity.

The Sun, The Moon, The Stars picks up in the messy months following a reluctant reconciliation between Junior and his girl of the moment, Magda. Then each story jumps around, mostly in Junior’s life, from an affair with an older woman, to losing his brother. Most of them are downers without the pockets of truth that make an otherwise melancholy story worth the read.

For a collection about love and sex, these stories lack heart. They lack desire, passion and tension, too, but I wouldn’t hold that against him if they had heart. This strikes me as a book that would be popular with people who don’t read very much, like John Dies at the End. What annoys me with these types of books is that they reinforce everything people who don’t read much think about books.

The stories feel more like sketches than complete works. The beauty of shorts is that they either earn you or they loose you fast, like a song. When they’re good they’re really really good. And when they’re bad they’re really really bad. I kept waiting for Diaz to earn with a mood, a moment or a meaty scene, but it didn’t happen for me.

If it weren’t a library book I would’ve tossed this one across the street. Does anyone else wonder why so many of the books that soak up all the acclaim are so mind-numbingly indulgent? It may be that I’m completely alone in my opinion, and that’s fine, but there are better books to read.

Sometimes a soggy sandwich is just a soggy sandwich. My time would’ve been better spent playing  this game. Gimme two of whatever this designer’s having.

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