The Reader's Guide to Love


You read This Is How You Lose Her, the new Junot Diaz. It's a novel in stories, which is a concept you like because you majored in English. It grabs you immediately. Each story shows the bold voice and street-smart wit Diaz is known for, but there's a deeper tenderness here that haunts every page of the book. You tell everyone you know to read it. You talk about how this is the way you want the future of literature to look. You tell them that this might be better than The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, the novel for which Diaz won a Pulitzer. (Later, at a lunch with an editor, you will give this rant, and it will turn out that he edited Oscar Wao.)

The book confronts every form of love, and really picks up in the second half. But it's not until the last story, "The Cheater's Guide to Love," a tremendous, earnest tale of heartbreak written in the second person, that you realize that this is a book you cherish. And the timing couldn't be better, or worse, depending on how you look at it: you just got dumped.

You have nothing in common with Diaz's protagonist Yunior--you are not a macho Dominican-American with a penchant for sleeping with lots of sucias--other than a shared sadness. You go through the same motions as Yunior. You start going to the climbing gym again. You get in the best shape you've been in since high school. You bury yourself in your work, every late hour in the office a welcome distraction.

A few months later, you move across the country to New York. You left for family reasons, but when you arrive at JFK, you immediately wonder if you're there because of her. It takes you a while to get used to the subway. At first it's annoying going for long stretches without cellphone reception, but you soon realize it's good reading time. You have a lot of books to get through for work, but you instead read "The Cheater's Guide to Love" again. It's just as good the second time, maybe better.

You used to think writing from the second-person was a lazy gimmick, that it let a writer frame otherwise dull, declarative statements in a semi-interesting voice. But you realize this is not the case with Diaz in "The Cheater's Guide to Love." He knows the power of "you." The second person is a recognition that every heartbreak is unique, but the pain is universal.

Weeks later, she'll tweet a photo of her and the person who is apparently her boyfriend. You knew he existed; you just never knew what he looked like. You expect to be angry, upset, anything. They look cute, and you're actually a little happy for them. Maybe you're actually happier for yourself because you realize that you feel very little. You're over it.

On the subway, you read "The Cheater's Guide to Love" again. It devastates you the same way it did the first two times you read. You may be over her, but you are not over this story. You accept that you never will be.

-- Kevin Nguyen

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Comments (1)

This is exactly right. That book was everything.

Posted by: N. Jax | Thursday November 22, 2012 at 5:30 PM

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