Wednesday, January 14, 2009

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Díaz

Title: The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

Author: Junot Diaz
# pages: 335
Date Published: 2007
Genre: literary fiction
Challenges: New Classics Challenge, Book Awards II
Challenge, Fall Into Reading, Countdown Challenge



First Sentence:
"They say it came first from Africa, carried in the screams of the enslaved; that it was the death bane of the Tainos, uttered just as one world perished and another began; that it was a demon drawn into Creation through the nightmare door that was cracked open in the Antilles. Fuku americanus, or more colloquially, fuku--generally a curse or a doom of some kind; specifically the Curse and the Doom of the New World."
What is it all about? This is the story of Oscar, a fantasy-loving nerd of Dominican ancestry living in northern New Jersey. But it is not only about Oscar. It is also about his sister, his mother, and the history of the Dominican Republic.

Random thoughts: The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao is an odd book. I don't think I've ever read anything quite like it. And that's a good thing--this book is very different and I'm glad I read it. My favorite part of the book was the language. It's very, very raw (see the quote below for a tiny sample). But, for me, the language really lent an air of authenticity to the story. The author's use of footnotes to explain the historical background of the Dominican Republic was also quite refreshing. Be warned, however, that because of the footnotes this book doesn't come across very well in the audio book format. One of the women in book club listened to it on audio and was pretty confused.

Favorite quote:
"Kept as far away from El Jefe as possible--he wasn't under any delusion that he was Trujillo's equal or his buddy or some sort of necessary individual--after all, niggers who messed with Him had a habit of ending up with a bad case of the deads." (p. 215-216)

Fun tidbits:
  • Junot Diaz's Website
  • Awards: 2008 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and the 2008 National Book Critics Circle Award

Recommended for readers who like: something different from what they've been reading. The only book that I can remember surprising me as much as The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao did was Motherless Brooklyn by Jonathan Lethem.

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