These characters hes dissecting and leaving on the table raw and opened up to each reader. ... and to him, every reader has a right to his response good or bad. Its like youre on a bus. Some people youre going to like and some youre not.
Díaz, who has also taken some heat for Yuniors constant use of the N word, has an explanation for the characters self-destructive behavior: I can quote a woman friend of mine and tell you to think about the culture we live in. ... the average guys in the neighborhood I grew up in, the only place they are encouraged to be vulnerable is in a womans bed. Theres a way of reading this book where you can read it and say, No, this is nonstop misogyny, but I think the best part of books is their complexity permits a wide range of interpretation. Otherwise its no longer a book. Ive always loved games and reader participation [in books]. As a writer I want to read books with participation in them. Texts that dont challenge you, I think of those as entertainment. A book like this tries to challenge you to come and play.
One of Díazs best tricks in This Is How You Lose Her comes hidden in Otravida, Otrevez, the one story in the collection not narrated by Yunior. Yasmin, who works in a New Jersey hospital laundry, tells of her relationship with a man who has a family back in the Dominican Republic. He claims that he stopped writing to her the year before, but thats not true. Every month I drop by his apartment with his laundry and read the new letters she has sent, the ones he stashes under his bed. The man is Yuniors father, the story written by Yunior trying to make sense of his past.
Its Yunior the writer, imagining the woman he would be least empathetic to, Díaz explains, adding that only close readers of his books and maybe grad students are going to realize this fact. She kept his father from him, created the first wound in him.
Is such insightful work a sign Yunior is slowly growing into a better man? Díaz calls the book open-ended, but the self-pitying Yunior of The Sun, the Moon, the Stars has encountered self-awareness by the final story, A Cheaters Guide to Love. Hes not the same man: You are surprised at what a f------ chicken---- coward you are. It kills you to admit it but its true.
Díaz, meanwhile, is resigned to the enormous amount of pressure likely to haunt him until his next book is published. And nobody piles on the pressure like he does to himself.
I live at the bottom of the sea where the titanic compression of the ocean is upon me, he jokes. Whats a little pressure? But you know, I always tell people: Books are never late to the party. A few years later, you will not remember how long it took a book to come out.