I’d only read a couple of short stories by Diaz before, and have been meaning to read The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao for a while now, so this was my first real introduction to his work. I was really impressed and I’m definitely going to seek out more of his writing.
This is a collection of short stories, all of them linked thematically and many of them featuring Yunior, a character who frequently appears in Diaz’s work, as their protagonist. These are the stories of Yunior’s heartbreak and his relationships with women and, at their core, Yunior’s desire to be loved. Underneath his macho exterior, Yunior is a broken kid, a boy facing loss and uncertainty and an inability to form real, lasting relationships. Each story focuses on a different woman, most of them Yunior’s own romantic conquests, but also highlight Yunior’s fractured relationship with his older brother and meditations on masculinity, on loss, and of course, love in its many forms.
Diaz is seriously one of the most beautiful writers working today. His prose is stunning and lyrical and reads more like poetry at times than fiction. He captures voice and culture like no other author I can think of, perfectly replicating slang and tone and accent on the page. You can tell that the world he describes is one he knows intimately and loves dearly, and yet he’s not afraid of pointing out its flaws. I loved how this book (because it’s really more of a book than a collection) is fragmented yet cohesive, with the individual stories/chapters able to stand alone and yet compliment one another and flesh each other out, each one adding deeper meaning and understanding and subtext to the others.
This is a gorgeous book and one that I really couldn’t stop reading. If this is your first Diaz book, it’s a good place to start–if not, and you’ve read other things by him, I’m sure you’ll love this too.