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Short stories long on punch

Not prolific, just terrific

By Kurt Rabin

The Free Lance-Star

COULD THINGS possibly get any better for Dominican–American author Junot Díaz? Already a New Yorker magazine darling for his short fiction, he took home 2007’s Pulitzer Prize for his début novel, “The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao.”

Now his latest short story collection is a finalist for the National Book Award. And to top things off, he was just announced the recipient of a coveted half-million-dollar MacArthur genius grant, one that is entirely well-deserved. Anyone who can ask for—and receive—$27 for a short story collection as slender (barely 200 pages) as “This Is How You Lose Her,” his first book in five years, has got to be a genius.

But the truth is Díaz does have some serious writing chops, and a highly distinctive voice besides—even if he’s not exactly prolific. (His entire literary output, spanning more than 16 years, consists of two short story collections and a novel.)

His most recent collection, a catalog of wrecked love affairs, is worth its price tag if only for its ultimate tale, “The Cheater’s Guide to Love,” a how-to on how not to conduct a love affair.

It’s also the story the author has said was “a beast” to write. “This thing almost killed me, ” he told a New York Times interviewer. However, the other stories didn’t come any easier, he said. “It’s like you spend 16 years chefing in the kitchen, and all that’s left is an “amusé-bouché.”

But what a tasty pleasure!

Kurt Rabin is a copy editor with The Free Lance–Star.


By Junot Díaz

(Riverhead, $26.95, 224 pp.)


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