When getting back into the game, stick with what you know. It’s been five years since Junot Diaz wrote The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, the novel that won him the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. In September, he’ll release a collection of short stories titled This Is How You Lose Her; in anticipation, he’s written a new story in The New Yorker called “Miss Lora.” It’s as touching and familiar of a tale as Diaz could ever write, exploring the alternately sweet and doomed relationship between a Dominican boy and an older neighbor. An excerpt:
It was 1985. You were sixteen years old and you were messed up and alone like a motherfucker. You were also convinced—like totally, utterly convinced—that the world was going to blow itself to pieces. Almost every night you had dreams that made the ones the President was having in “Dreamscape” look like pussy play. In your dreams the bombs were always going off, evaporating you while you walked, while you ate a chicken wing, while you rode the bus to school, while you fucked Paloma. You would wake up biting your own tongue in terror, the blood dribbling down your chin.
To say anything more would be to spoil it. It’s not clear whether “Miss Lora” will appear in his new book, but Diaz also gave an interview in which he talks about the story’s dynamics and his writing style. “I really needed distance from this story,” he says. “Every time I wrote in the first person it was just too close. Tried third person, but that flopped as well. Second person ended up being the only way to get through.” There’s more, of course, and it’s well worth taking a few minutes out of your day to go through, assuming Diaz’s blend of ethnically specific vernacular and overtly deep emotional pathos has never turned you off.