The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar WaoThings Have Never Been Easy For Oscar, A Sweet But Disastrously Overweight, Lovesick Dominican Ghetto Nerd From His Home In New Jersey, Where He Lives With His Old World Mother And Rebellious Sister, Oscar Dreams Of Becoming The Dominican J R R Tolkien And, Most Of All, Of Finding Love But He May Never Get What He Wants, Thanks To The Fuk The Curse That Has Haunted The Oscar S Family For Generations, Dooming Them To Prison, Torture, Tragic Accidents, And, Above All, Ill Starred Love Oscar, Still Waiting For His First Kiss, Is Just Its Most Recent Victim Diaz Immerses Us In The Tumultuous Life Of Oscar And The History Of The Family At Large, Rendering With Genuine Warmth And Dazzling Energy, Humor, And Insight The Dominican American Experience, And, Ultimately, The Endless Human Capacity To Persevere In The Face Of Heartbreak And Loss A True Literary Triumph, The Brief Wondrous Life Of Oscar Wao Confirms Junot Diaz As One Of The Best And Most Exciting Voices Of Our Time

Junot D az was born in the Dominican Republic and raised in New Jersey He is the author of the critically acclaimed Drown The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, which won the 2008 Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award and This Is How You Lose Her, a New York Times bestseller and National Book Award finalist He is the recipient of a MacArthur Genius Fellowship, PEN Malamud

➜ [KINDLE] ❆ The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao By Junot Díaz ➦ –
  • Hardcover
  • 335 pages
  • The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao
  • Junot Díaz
  • English
  • 14 January 2018
  • 9781594489587

10 thoughts on “The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

  1. says:

    How this book won the Pulitzer Prize AND the National Book Critics Circle is beyond me It s terrible Here s the review I wrote when it came out I stand by this completely If someone says they read this and liked it, punch them in the throat I m kidding, naturally Review of Junot Diaz s first novel, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, published Oct 7, 2007 Imagine, if you will, that seven years after publishing The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber, Ernest Hemingway decided to expand his well known short story into a 350 page novel Imagine if, before Macomber is accidentally shot by his wife on that safari, Hemingway decided to pad the narrative with a couple hundred pages about Macomber s mother, sister, and grandfather tangents that only serve to betray the proper focus of the story, its title, and the reader s trust.That, in short, is what Junot Diaz has done with The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao Riverhead Books, 24.95 a short story he wrote for the New Yorker in 2000, and which, in novel form, devotes pages to the title character s extended family and it s so called curse or fuku than it does to the fat, girl challenged nerdy writer who loves The Lord of the Rings trilogy and aspires to be the Dominican Tolkien Diaz, now 38, burst on the literary scene in 1996 with his well received collection of short stories, Drown, which critics and readers both loved I ve been meaning to read it for some time, and when I learned he was coming out with a novel, I figured the timing was perfect I d sample his lone collection of short stories, get a flavor for his style, and then progress to the novel Unfortunately, the library s sole copy has been checked out for weeks, so I didn t get to read Drown before experiencing The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, which happens to be one of the most erratic, ill conceived and annoying books I ve ever encountered.The book begins with short lived promise We meet dorky Oscar as a high school sopho living in Paterson, N.J., with his mother, Belicia his sister, Lola and his heroin addicted uncle, who plays a minor, insignificant role The mother had been born in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, but immigrated to the United States in the early 1960s The kids father, whom she met on the plane to the states, took off a long time ago, and the story of his flight from domesticity is about the only case of love gone bad that isn t described in excruciating detail in this book.Crazy love is the family s curse or fuku, which is the superstitious element of magical realism that threads through the novel No matter what its name or provenance, it is believed that the arrival of Europeans on Hispaniola unleashed the fuku on the world, and we ve all been in the bleep ever since, says the sometime narrator, Yunior, the onetime boyfriend of Oscar s sister, whose name and identity won t be revealed until halfway through the book, and for no other reason than Diaz wants to torture his readers That s the only reason I could glean, anyway So, Oscar s personal fuku is that he loves girls, but they don t love him And basically, they don t love him because he doesn t look like Enrique Iglesias To hear Diaz tell it, Oscar s the only Dominican who doesn t Had none of the Higher Powers of your typical Dominican male, couldn t have pulled a girl if his life depended on it Couldn t play sports for bleep , dominoes, was beyond uncoordinated, threw a ball like a girl Had no knack for music or business or dance, no hustle, no rap, no G And most damning of all no looks He wore his semi kink hair in a Puerto Rican afro, rocked enormous Section 8 glasses sported an unappealing trace of mustache on his upper lip and possessed a pair of close set eyes that made him look somewhat retarded Yunior goes on, Perhaps if he d been like me he d been able to hide his otakuness maybe bleep would have been easier for him, but he couldn t Dude wore his nerdiness like a Jedi wore his light saber or a Lensman her lens Couldn t have passed for Normal if he d wanted to At this point, we don t who the narrator is or what his relationship to Oscar might be Truthfully, wanting to know does help drag the reader through the novel But learning the identity isn t ultimately rewarding it s annoying.Early on, the forward momentum of the novel stalls and the narrative flashes back in time and focuses on Lola, the sister, and how she ran away from home in the 1990s and then to the mother, Belicia, and how she was a star crossed lover herself in the Dominican Republic The mother s section of the book lasts 90 pages and covers the years 1955 1962 A wise reader would have quit the 335 page book at this point, because The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao had morphed into The Bloated Family Background of Oscar Wao But I read on, waiting for it to get better Unfortunately, it never did, and the reasons seem clear.Not only is the narrative timeline all over the place, but important information be it dialogue or exposition is often relayed in Spanish Now, I took two semesters of the language in college and yet I had no idea what characters were saying in many parts, because context didn t lend hints If Diaz is aiming this book towards a bilingual audience, then so be it But how difficult would it have been to translate the Spanish in footnotes The book is already rife with footnotes anyway, which mainly serve to explain the history of the brutal dictatorship of Trujillo in the Dominican Republic Throw a gringo a bone.In describing how Belicia, Oscar s mother, had developed a brash attitude as a teenager while living in the Dominican Republic with her adoptive mother, La Inca , Diaz writes, Those of you who have stood at the corner of 142nd and Broadway can guess what it was she spoke the blunt, irreverent cant of the pueblo that gives all dominicanos cultos nightmares on their 400 thread count sheets and that La Inca had assumed perished along with Beli s first life in Outer Azua, but here it was so alive, it was like it had never left Oye, pariguayo, y que paso con esa esposa tuya Gordo, no me digas que tu todavia tienes hambre Uh, no comprende, amigo A lack of Spanish skills won t be the only thing that keeps you from enjoying this book Beyond its organizational problems, the literary devices in play the magical realism, the comic book references, and the fat, supposedly lovable title character make the book feel derivative of Jorge Luis Borges, Michael Chabon The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier Clay , and A Confederacy of Dunces Towards the end of the novel, Yunior, the narrator, is describing Oscar s last great love, a semi retired prostitute named Ybon He says, I know I ve thrown a lot of fantasy and sci fi in the mix but this is supposed to be a true account of the Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao Can t we believe that an Ybon can exist and that a brother like Oscar might be due a little luck after twenty three years This is your chance If blue pill, continue If red pill, return to the Matrix Too bad that offer came so late on page 285 Do yourself a favor and take the red pill now Return to the Matrix and don t read this book.

  2. says:

    I want to know all about your family, your childhood, your grandparents, their childhood, etc, etc, I want to know where you lived, what food you ate, what games you played or didn t play I want to know why this is important to you or that is not Which is why I LOVED this book Junot Diaz takes 300 pages to tell a story about a boy that wants to be kissed and the kiss MATTERS because we know his family, we know his friends, we know their superstitions and their pains, and their loses and their survivals and by the time we get to page 339 we know why the kiss is so important.Oscar goes on the short list of book characters that will stay with me forever.

  3. says:

    Exhilarating Brutal yet beautiful Wao I really enjoyed both the style and the story of this whirlwind of a novel by Junot D az I can see why he got a Pulitzer and wonder if he other books are as fun to read I think that Seven Killings was even masterful, but Oscar delivers nearly as much gore and Caribbean corruption and historical facts as well I especially enjoyed the footnotes Writing any about this book would certainly break my no spoilers rules so suffice it to say that this book was GREAT and I will be on the lookout for D az fiction For about Trujillo, his regime, his assassination, and the chaos that ensued with a magnificent female protagonist Urania , don t miss Feast of the Goat by Nobel Laureate Mario Vargas Llosa it is extraordinary

  4. says:

    I bought Oscar Wao as a birthday gift for my mother in October based on scores of sterling reviews She read it, gave it a mild thumbs up probably just being nice and handed it off to me Now having read it, I m pretty mortified I thought this book would be something she might like The critical consensus seemed to be that Junot Diaz is a good writer, and he picked a good story to tell here in his first novel But I found this book lacking on both counts I found the writing lazy and unexpressive in many places Granted, I have no Spanish language background, so there were some important places in the novel where I couldn t get the total meaning of the sentences, but I thought Diaz s reliance on slang colloquialism arose out of laziness than from the narrative voice, which was often sloppy There are multiple narrators and they mostly talk in the same voice, with the same elements of short humor pithy street wisdom offered The story was just as diappointing There were efforts made at epic storytelling here tackling the Trujillo dictatorship of the Dominican and its spiritual ramifications on the generations of the de Leon family But when you boil this thing down, it s just the story of a loser teenager trying to get laid And there aren t any characters who raise the level of discussion Besides Oscar, his mother s trying to get laid, his sister s trying to get laid, and so it seems the essence of the Dominican character is about getting laid Maybe it s honest, but it s not saying much about their culture relevance It was hard for me to take away any large messages from this book when it operates from such a crude fundamental point.I give it two stars only because Diaz seems to have a knack for narrative the plot is well constructed, even if it is slight irrelevant and there are a few characters who will remain in my mind.

  5. says:

    Ok, I m writing a review of this book right now or I ma die trying goddamn it 1 HOUR LATERI got nothing I ve deleted like 20 paragraphs 1 HOUR LATER 2 bruises in my forehead, kind of dizzy, I ve cursed the gods of knowledge for being born without literary talent And 0 review Oh god I give up This is all I got This book is awesome Is a nerdy dude being nerdy as hell and not getting pussy Even tho he desperately wants it he watches Akira which I think is kind of cool he watches cool tv shows that I like Talks about books that I like, and has an unhealthy Tolkien obsession almost as big as mine I didn t like it when he was hating on Magic The Gathering but whatever I know how different strategy nerds get really aggressive when talking about games they don t like, he eats platano Mucho mucho platano And god damn it I love platanos too With cebollitas and queso frito He has a fuku almost as bad as mine I disagree with him when he compares Balaguer to one of the Ring Wraths I think it was the witch king I think if we are going to talk about dominican culture in LOTR terms Trujillo was Morgoth and Balaguer was Sauron there is a part on the Silmarillion when after the fall of Morgoth yes, I used the Noldor name fuck off Sauron escapes and they said that he gets to be as evil as his master oh god I need a life so badly anyway this book has anime, DD, Tolkien, Dr Who, platanos, Dominican mother s makes one want to kill one self , voodoo, Love, I mean all the good stuff

  6. says:

    Soon after I started reading this book, I also started reading Housekeeping vs The Dirt by Nick Hornby In it s preface, Hornby discusses why reading has fallen by the wayside as of late A lot of people associate reading with boredom because to most, it feels like a chore to get through novels If people would just read what they enjoyed, then they would begin again to see the pleasures of reading and thus, do of it he even makes a point that someone who reads only The Economist and their daily paper every week may in fact be reading words than him There s a bit of circular logic to this, of course how are you to know if you ll enjoy a book unless you start Along with that, you have many circles that seem to want to claim that unless reading is difficult or a challenge, then it wasn t really worth reading at all Which pretty much sums up all the trappings I fell into with Oscar Wao I first became aware of it when I read an interview with Diaz on a comic book site I frequent I recognized the book cover from work and said, There s a comic connection in there I should check it out I did, and the very first line is a quote from an old Fantastic Four comic Flipping through at random I caught even references, to the New Gods and Middle Earth and so onit seemed rife with geeky references I d get seriously how many of the literatti would know what the Omega Effect was I made a mental note to check it out later Before you know it, this little book had won the Pulitzer Wow, there must be to it than just some sci fi asides So I finally found a good break to read it It starts out interesting enough, despite a lengthy discussion about the Dominican Republic s dictators, and I can see Oscar is pretty likable There is a LOT of Spanish and Spanish slang mixed throughout, but I can figure out most through context The second section then shifts to Oscar s sister, Lola She s afforded about equal time, albeit with less geeky references, and I stick through it here because she spends her time in Wildwood, and as I spent a lot of summers there growing up I wondered if I d recognize anything something else Hornby discusses in the above book, oddly enough familiar locations as a reason to read a particular book The next section is what did me in Diaz decides to spend a LOT of time on the childhood and adolescence of Oscar and Lola s mother From what I ve gathered in other reviews, Diaz is apparently setting up some themes between all these family members, but at that point I couldn t care less This was not what I signed up for, and the Spanish comes on even stronger here I found myself skipping almost every other sentence I m sure there is some beautiful dovetailing of story lines later on, but the reading became a chore, and at that point I decided to take Nick Hornby s advice on how to proceed Put it down You ll never finish it Start something else And there s nothing wrong with that.

  7. says:

    A to Z around the world personal challenge D is Dominican RepublicAfter the partial failure with another Pulitzer winner and the controversy surrounding this book author I was a bit weary at first I shouldn t have been because it was an excellent novel which deserves its praise The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao is not about Oscar s life and it definitely wasn t wondrous It is a saga of Dominicana family starting in the Republic during the horrendous period of Trujillo s reign, one of the worse dictatores, and ending in New York in the 90 s The main characters are, in my opinion, the invisible Trujillo and la madre de Oscar, Belicia Cabral La historia is narrated by one of the characters and we gradually find out who that is The timeline is not linear but it made sense to me The characters are powerfully, all flawed and not overly likable but they felt real to the period and the surroundings The novel is written in Spanglish and I was thankful for my knowledge of Espanol Watching Narcos also helped as I could thoroughly enjoy those beautiful adverbs such as maricon Although I read it in Romanian, the translator kept the Spanish slang and did a good job to preserve the flow, as the author intended There are a lot of bad words in here, so for someone who is easily offended, it might be a problem Sexism in this novel and Sexual misconduct of the author Rant alert and unpopular opinion about metoo I read a couple of reviews who criticize this novel because it is sexist Well, is it I guess it is, taking in consideration that women are viewed as putas and their most important features are el culo and the tits However, I am strongly against judging a book about how the women characters are portrayed Who would read anything by classics then Context is always important and also the author s intentions I am sure that this was the culture in the Dominican republic of that time maybe even now or in the US in the migrant neighborhoods It adds verity to the plot characters and I would hate to see a novel ruined by excessive political correctness Or anything else I do not care much about authors lives but even I heard about the scandals surrounding the author I usually ignore their personal life because it is their work that interests me and I managed to do it nicely this time as well I will not say because I should not write about the author s personal life but, in general, I think this metoo movement is going way too far and deviates from the original, appreciable objective, which is to denounce sexual predators like Weinstein I don t think the aim should be to scare men, dig into their private life and further damage the relationship between the sexes I recently had a discussion with a friend about Henry Cavill s statement which was so criticized although in my opinion is true Here it is There s a traditional approach to that, which is nice I think a woman should be wooed and chased, but maybe I m old fashioned for thinking that He added It s very difficult to do that if there are certain rules in place Because then it s like Well, I don t want to go up and talk to her, because I m going to be called a rapist or something So you re like Forget it, I m going to call an ex girlfriend instead, and then just go back to a relationship which never really worked So well done us, Women We managed to scare the shit out of men I know of men that do not go to business dinners with women because they are afraid they will be accused of sexual harassment So goodbye, equal opportunities Ok, I ll stop my rant now but it does bother me how things should improve but instead they might turn for the worse.

  8. says:

    The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot D az is pure genius storytelling at its core This was a Book Club choice that had me a little nervous but in the end had me tightly strapped in for the ride.As the title suggests, there is brevity to Oscar Wao s life Going into the read knowing this fact makes it even harder to accept as you have little hope that he will survive all that is thrown at him in his early years You root for him the entire length of the book but know deep in your heart it will not end well.The imagery, foreshadowing and character development is on point rich with emotion and passion You will fall in love with Oscar knowing all the while he is so very different from you, but so very similar at the same time You will suffer the torture and experience the pain he feels.But in the end, you accept what has happened despite the heartbreak and sadness that comes with it I am better man having read about Oscar than I was before About Me For those new to me or my reviews here s the scoop I read A LOT I write A LOT And now I blog A LOT First the book review goes on Goodreads, and then I send it on over to my WordPress blog at where you ll also find TV Film reviews, the revealing and introspective 365 Daily Challenge and lots of blogging about places I ve visited all over the world And you can find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who what when where and my pictures Leave a comment and let me know what you think Vote in the poll and ratings Thanks for stopping by.

  9. says:

    Honestly, if someone had warned me that this book would barrage me, page after page, line after line, clause after clause, with obscure dorky references, Dominican Republican history lessons, and Spanish colloquialisms, I may not have picked it up But I am glad I did.It is comforting to realize that on the scale of nerd dom, I fall on the light end I could follow the shout outs to science fiction authors, as well as the Lord of the Rings allusions of which there were many But I was lost for all the anime, video game, comic, and role playing mentions And I was okay with that Really My ignorance didn t keep me from empathizing with the main character super dork Oscar Wao He actually reminded me of all the odd computer science and mechanical engineering majors from my undergrad I found him endearing and was always happiest and saddest when the book shifted back into a perspective featuring sweet, roly poly Oscar Likewise, I enjoyed the footnotes about the sorted history of the Dominican Republic Who knew they hated Haitians so much In fact, I expect any prominent Latin American author writing about their homeland to have some kind of educational element.Alas, the Spanish words intermixed into every other sentence Those got on my nerves I could normally infer their meaning, but it was tiring Plus my straight laced Colombian husband was of limited use with the Island slang Although I will admit, it was fun to see him flustered Picture us reading at a restaurant I look up and kick Leo under the table.Me Hey, Leo Another one What does ___ mean Leo SHHH looks guiltily at the Latino family eating at the table next to us Me What What does it mean Leo Not now.Me pause Later Which brings us to the next point the cussing Diaz s style is unique He is definitely a modern literary writer The artistry and intelligence is there Yet instead of stuffy and pretentious, Diaz is raw and raunchy He is liberal with the cuss words It didn t bother me, but if you are faint of heart, you definitely want to avoid this book.Well, I told you a half truth I was fine with the language on the page, but in person, I was blushing Let me explain I went to an event last night with Diaz He was hosted by an amazing reading series in Houston, Inprint The crowd at these events is how should I put this prim There are groups of university literature writing students, but the overall demographic is middle aged and older You ll see lots of shiny loafers, tailored dresses, coiffured hair, and blazers Diaz got up on that stage in his sneakers and let it rip He has a dirty mouth It shouldn t have been surprising given what I already knew of his writing He really does write similar to how he talks I guess I just expected he would tone it down for this event Oh no He used every cuss word in the urban dictionary At one point, everyone was laughing at some joke and he affectionately remarked we were some giggling motherf ckers He was also fond of informal phrases, such as yeah man and for real.Yet it felt authentic He was not out to impress or shock us and instead came across as charming and candid Plus I give him kudos for being that relaxed in front of several hundred people Nonetheless, I was a little uncomfortable I kept stealing sideways glances at the lady sitting next to me She was wearing stockings and a lovely pastel cardigan and stared straight ahead with this blank expression I would have given a thousand pennies for her thoughts.Moving beyond the verbal color to the substance, Diaz thinks men are inherently bad at writing from a woman s perspective although improvement is possible After he likened writing workshops to death matches between writers, he recommends you write for readers and not other writers He believes readers are far generous and forgiving As an example, he pointed to how Lord of the Rings lovers will put up with countless pages of f cking Elvish poetry Diaz also will admit he is a slow writer It takes 3 4 years for him to finish a 15 page short story Although he seemed at peace with his pace To wrap up, I mentioned earlier that Diaz s style is unique Yet I will offer some comparisons to potentially help orient yourself His writing reminded me favorably of both Gary Shteyngart s causal, humorous style and Jeffrey Eugenides beautiful, multi generational story telling Plus in his acknowledgements, Diaz mentioned one of my all time literary crushes, Francisco Goldman He actually called him Frankie G And anyone who loves Frank is okay in my book I read to learn But if 90% of the references fly over my head, I become frustrated For this reason, I never get far into The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana with its multitude of unfamiliar Italian culture references I also avoid those literary self help books that me feel bad about all the classics I should know, but don t ex How to Read Literature Like a Professor.

  10. says:

    Meet Oscar de Leon, dubbed Oscar Wao by bullies who liken him to the foppish Oscar Wilde Our Oscar is a fat, virginal Dominican American teenager who carries a Planet of the Apes lunchbox to school, spends hours painting his Dungeons Dragons miniatures, and who knows about the Marvel Universe than Stan Lee If Nerd was a country, Oscar would be its undisputed king Oscar is the kind of kid sweaty, mumbles to himself, inevitably invades personal space, probably has bad breath we would avoid on the subway In Junot Diaz debut novel, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, however, Oscar is the flame and we are the moths An earnestly open hearted protagonist, he draws us to him until we incinerate in the intensity of his character He s a pitiful but hopeful loser we can all relate to, even the Prom Kings and Queens among us who might just be the loneliest kids in school The last time I was this absorbed by a fictional weirdo was in 1989 when John Irving s Owen Meany forced me FORCED, I SAY to read his Prayer twice in rapid, thirsty succession Oscar held me captive in much the same way with his sweaty, sticky fingers tightly gripping my attention Let s return to Diaz for a moment To use the words Diaz and debut novel in such close proximity is something of a joke Diaz has been a middleweight figure on the literary scene for eleven years, based almost exclusively on his previous and only book Drown, a collection of interconnected stories which, like The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, chronicled the Dominican immigrant experience with a startling freshness If you turn to the back flap of that 1996 book, you ll read an author bio which concludes with He lives in New York City and is at work on his first novel That was eleven years ago To say that Oscar Wao was much anticipated would be an understatement Why the long wait Tick off the reasons on your fingers writer s block, the paralysis of sudden fame at a young age Diaz was in his late 20s when the accolades started flooding in , working for years on an apocalyptic novel about the destruction of New York City which was eventually trumped by the sur reality of 9 11, not seeing anything on the blank wall which stares back at you unblinking, you name it Little of that matters now, except as an interesting footnote of trivia, because today we hold in our hands the solid, substantial Oscar Wao For a first novel, it s an impressive triumph Now back to Oscar As the novel s title implies, this is the chronicle of Oscar s brief, candle flame life and charts his quest, but rarely conquest, of girls You see, not only is Oscar a Tolkein loving, Star Trek quoting, Dungeons Dragons playing geek, he s a horny geek whose tongue hangs out and eyes bulge in cartoon cones every time a pretty girl walks by The only trouble is, as his friend Yunior points out, Dude wore his nerdiness like a Jedi wore his light saber Save for one incredibly happy encounter late in his life, Oscar s lust is unrequited, but he takes this as a matter of course because he believes his family is living under the cloud of an Old World curse called fuku, brought to our shores, he believes, by Columbus Despite wearing the family doom like a black, itchy sweater and meeting romantic rejection at every turn, Oscar optimistically journeys through the 1970s, the dawn of the Nerd Age, Diaz writes It s Oscar against the world and he glumly accepts his lot in life Everybody, he says at one point, misapprehends me As he grows older and retreats from his peers into the world of Lovecraft, Doc Savage, Asimov, Heinlein and Edgar Rice Burroughs, Oscar begins to think his destiny is to be the Dominican Tolkein He spends countless hours holed up in his room writing science fiction and fantasy tales If Diaz had allowed, Oscar probably would have spent eleven years working on his masterpiece but, as we re always reminded, this is a brief life Oscar tries to make the most of it, even with the fuku hanging over his head The novel is than just a Nerd Epic, however Diaz pulls out all the stops in an attempt to tell a all encompassing story of immigration and assimilation Oscar lives with his mother and sister in the ghetto of Paterson, New Jersey, and the novel is as much their story as it is his We re just starting to groove with sympathy for fat little Oscar when Diaz suddenly shifts gears and takes us into the world of Lola, Oscar s beautiful, athletic sister who has a stormy relationship with their mother, Belicia, a hardnosed no nonsense femme matador Then, before too many pages have elapsed, we re deep in that woman s story, in a long section of the book called The Three Heartbreaks of Belicia Cabral, where we learn what happened to her back in the Dominican Republic to make her so bitterly protective of her children These chapters, along with the rest of the book for that matter, really are filled with heartbreak, a transmogrification of fuku that shapes the course of everything to come, from Oscar s obsession with Shazam to Lola s runaway teen saga Diaz also proves to be something of a risk taker The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao bravely assumes there is an audience of readers who will sit through a long novel in which the English and Spanish languages mingle without the author once stopping to translate the unfamiliar words The gist of what the Spanglish phrases mean is pretty easy to pick up, and for those readers who absolutely have to know what guapa or chuleria mean well, an English Spanish dictionary is as close as the internet Diaz also assumes his readers will come to the table with some knowledge of Dominican history, specifically the tyrannical regime of Rafael Trujillo, who ruled the Dominican Republic from 1930 to 1961 and who, if Oscar is to be believed, was master of the fuku Trujillo who You know, the portly, sadistic, pig eyed mulato who bleached his skin, wore platform shoes, and had a fondness for Napoleon era haberdashery If your mind is as blank as mine when it comes to the island s past, never fear Diaz replays the highlights of Santo Domingo History 101 in footnotes which annotate the novel Yes, footnotes The novel is peppered with them, as any well respecting Screed of Nerd should be Diaz knows most of us don t know squat about Dominicans and, as in Drown, he brings us briskly into the light Pay attention to Trujillo, though, because he plays an important role in Oscar s destiny Diaz never lets the pace lag and his sentences remain fresh and sharp throughout One woman is described with eczema on her hands looking like a messy meal that had set later, Yunior describes how it feels to be mugged my guts feeling like they d been taken out of me, beaten with mallets, and then reattached with paper clips Through his wondrous use of language, Diaz brings the book alive and makes it tremble in our hands The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao is an epic in the truest sense and in its fat, endearing hero s chest beats a Homeric heart Oscar leads us through his unflagging quest for happiness, while Diaz tumbles us through a century of Dominican history and shows us how the brief life of one lonely boy can epitomize the immigrant experience This novel was well worth the decade long wait.

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