Junot Diaz: Bringing the Fun to Literary Fiction

Most literary fiction is Serious, capital “S.”

And I love it. I love the perfect craft and literary heartbreak of Alice Munro, Charles Baxter, Jhumpa Lahiri.

And there is the truly original and funny George Saunders. I love reading his work, but that fun always comes with a price – a punch to the gut. So I can’t say reading him is fun in the ordinary sense of the word.

But Junot Diaz is just plain fun to read.

Alma is in a painting class…Her last painting was of you, slouching against the front door: only your frowning I-had-a-lousy-Third-World-childhood-and-all-I-got-was-this-attitude eyes recognizable.

ImageI put off reading his 2012 collection of stories, “This is How You Lose Her,” because I didn’t want to stop looking forward to reading it. Finally, last week, I finally broke down and got it from the library.

(My next blog post will explain my unscientific algorithm of buying books vs. borrowing from the library.)

From the first sentence on, the stories are fun – even when they deal with heartbreak, death, and despair. It’s the language and his impeccable storytelling. Effortless and fun.

I don’t feel he has written a story for me to read. I feel as if he is next to me, telling me a story. A sad, funny, true story in his own voice. It helps that I’ve heard him read aloud and hear his voice as I read.

The feeling I have in anticipation of reading Diaz’s work is the same feeling I get waiting to board a rollercoaster. I’m not sure of the twists and turns to come or how it’s going to end, but I know I am going to have a lot of fun during the ride.

And anyone who uses “Bartleby” as verb is a genius.

When I ask her if we can chill, I’m no longer sure it’s a done deal. A lot of the time she Bartlebys me, says, No, I’d rather not.”

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