now and then, a novel comes along that is truly whimsical and
fresh, that takes one along on a roller-coaster ride with its
stylistic audacity and exuberant storytelling. We had wanted
to read Junot Diaz's novelistic debut,
Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao,
for the longest, and recently spent a rainy evening with this
unputdownable hurricane of a book. The book was an instant
success, garnered numerous awards including the 2008 Pulitzer
Prize and 2008 National Book Critics Circle Award.
Readers of Diaz's collection of short stories
recognize the smooth-talking, womanizing narrator Yunior de Las
Casas. Here he chronicles the lives of Oscar Wao, a rather
overweight young man infatuated with science fiction and fantasy
novels, his sister Lola, and mother Hypatia and grandfather
Abelard, who both suffer remarkable hardships under the
dictatorship of Rafael Trujillo.
novel is also a trans-generational trip through the colorful world
of Dominican history and Dominican diaspora, full of macho
braggadocio, a decidedly anti-intellectual milieu in thrall with
physical beauty and the pleasures of the senses. Diaz mixes
Spanish with English, weaving in pop, cultural, hip-hop, and
science fiction references with colloquialisms and street jargon
to create his own distinctive prose…..
hero was not one of those Dominican cats everybody's always going
on about--he was no home-run hitter or a fly bachatero, not a
playboy with a million hots on his jock.
And except for one period early in his life, dude never had much
luck with the females (how very un-Dominican of him)…"
the prose that drives you along, through the Dominican Republic
and the diasporan communities of New Jersey and the Bronx.
Copious footnotes à la David Foster Wallace or Nabokov tell a
parallel history of the Dominican Republic, a Caribbean paradise
transformed into a ruthless Soviet-style dictatorship by a power
and sex-obsessed Trujillo.
is a modern-day antihero who is everything that Dominican men are
not meant to be: overweight, uncoordinated, unsure with women -
plainly put, a nerd. And when Oscar Wao falls in love he
does so with desperate, passionate conviction: he turns out to be
very much a romantic….
Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao