Junot Diaz, “The Cheater’s Guide To Love”
One of the regular criticisms that comes up when my friends and I talk about Diaz’s work, is that it’s too consumed with the perspective and vagaries of a straight-up desesperado. (Why am I writing like him now?) His protagonists are girl-crazy to a fault. His protagonists are constantly fucking with/up relationships and it’s all very tiresome because, I suppose, we are used to the male gaze and we want something more than that.
But I think Diaz’s writing is so important because it exposes the raw nerve, the individual foundation and humanness, that - whether we like it or not - sits behind every individual perpetuating gaze, patriarchy, misogyny or double standards. He more than just alludes to this in an interview last month with the Boston Review. Diaz’s men aren’t just the products and perps of machismo — they’re casualties too.
The key is that he’s not writing about this without understanding the nuances of feminism, or the female experience or the societal havoc wreaked by the kind of men he explores. That is what separates Diaz from the kind of men who cry ‘misandry’ (though I doubt anyone is accusing him of that). His writing is in debt to and in service of feminism.
Since I’m interested in deeply personal narrative, in writing that limns the calamity of feeling, and barefaced ideas about love, Diaz is very obviously my kind of writer. But, from his work, I take away more than just a self-indulgent mirroring of me at my most in-love, out-of-luck, totally loathsome-est worst. As casual ideologues, fueled by the daily drip-drip of a custom blend of online sources, it is in our best interest to be momentarily pulled from that reinforcing reverie. It makes us better thinkers, writers, readers and people.