Unlike most bibliophiles, I don’t take kindly to book recommendations.
It takes a lot for someone to know what sort of books I like, what sort of literature I enjoy reading, what’s on my “to buy” list, so on and so forth. Because if I bought every book I ever read, I don’t think I could walk through the doorway of my house. I’m very, very picky about the books I get, and even more so about the ones that are suggested to me.
Because there’s only so much time I have in this world, and I’ll be damned if I spend a moment of it on a book that does nothing for me! (that being said, even the worst book will enhance your life in some way, if only to make you appreciate that there’s better literature elsewhere, but we’ll discuss that later on)
Anyhow, I picked this book up by Pulitzer Prize winning author Junot Díaz. Just to check it out. After all, it came highly recommended to me by several friends, and it’s been on the bestseller list for the NY Times, Amazon, and Kindle for awhile now. So I picked it up at my local library and settled in.
As far as language goes, this book is jam packed with spanglish, pigeon, and slang, with enough to decode for a wealth of linguists to pick apart for years. I loved the language. It was like reading a hot summer day in Brooklyn, when the pavement is sticky with sweat and ice cream, the air is sour with the smell of rotting garbage, and through it all you can’t help but sigh a big breathe of relief; that the only comfort in sight is a pair of smooth brown legs and long, shiny black hair that makes you cold and hot just looking at it. That’s how his entire novel reads; like that shimmering shiver of hot and cold summer lust and love.
But don’t read me wrong.
The main character, Yunior, is still an asshole.
But what makes this novel really good is that despite all of that, he’s such an in-depth character. It reminds me of that cliched yet totally true statement, that you need to try to walk a mile in everyone’s shoes. Because you don’t know what someone has been through; once you know that, once you understand them better, it all of a sudden becomes much harder to hate or judge them. The novel starts out with the tale of Yunior’s terrible relationship with a woman named Magda. He really does love her, but he’s sort of a shitty coward, and he loses her because he cheated on her. As you read the stories of all the other times he’s loved and lost (most of the time through his own fault) you hate him for his cowardice, his selfishness, but you also learn to love and sympathize with him as a character. You come to have a small sliver of understanding of why sometimes, women fall for charming albeit horrible men. You can’t help but admire the little bastard, just a little.
So did I go out on a limb to read this book? Yea. A book recommendation from someone who I didn’t know a lot about (other than the fact that he enjoys Hemingway) and I took a leap. In a couple ways, books for me was like Yunior and his girlfriends. Even the ones that were shitty, pitiful women, he loved, and sometimes, loved them for those specific reasons. No matter what, though, he always came out having learned from each and every one of them, mainly about himself. So yes, while I didn’t really enjoy the book too much (because I still don’t like reading about shitty assholes) I can be grateful for the lesson learned; that sometimes you need a crappy boyfriend to make you appreciate a good one.