‘Diem Perdidi’ by Julie Otsuka

Otzuka, Julie 2011

Diem Perdidi by Julie Otsuka, 2011

The magic trick:

Telling the story of a woman’s life through a list of things that she remembers and things that she does not remember

Very much a combination of Jamaica Kincaid’s “Girl” and Tobias Wolff’s “Bullet In The Brain,” “Diem Perdidi” wore me out.

Like “Girl,” it is more of a laundry list than story. But unlike “Girl,” it goes on for many, many pages – the repetition of its sentences becoming mind-numbing. Like “Bullet,” the story tells the story of someone’s life through the things that they remember and the things they do not remember. Again, though, whereas “Bullet” manages a biography in mere paragraphs, “Diem Perdidi” runs long. Did I mention the repetition of its sentences become mind-numbing.

Still, it is a very interesting way to tell a story. It wore on me, yes, but there is no denying that the picture of this woman became very clear by story’s end. And that’s quite a trick on Otsuka’s part.

The selection:

She remembers giving you your first bath on your third day in the world. She remembers that you were a very fat baby. She remembers that your first word was ‘No.’

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