Friday, October 05, 2007

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

by Junot Diaz
What first grabbed me about Diaz' novel was the voice. This is the voice of a friend of yours, telling you about a friend of his. It's immediate, slangy, spanglish, and full of sci-fi references. Besides the voice, you learn little about the narrator until later in the story; all you know is that he can spin a great story, and that he loved Oscar Wao. Oscar is a 400-pound sci-fi fan from the Dominician Republic, living in New Jersey with his mom and sister. Though Dominican men have a reputation as being especially good with "the ladies," Oscar is a hopeless case, as his friends and family often remind him, unless he changes his ways. Years go by, and he still hasn't had his first kiss. As the novel delves into the family history, you start to understand that maybe there's something more sinister at work. Could Oscar just be the latest victim of the family curse? How could Dominicans, who live on the first place Christopher Columbus set foot on in the Americas, NOT believe in curses? How could Oscar's family, who barely survived one of the bloodiest dictatorships in history, start a new life, scot-free? The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, with its mix of hipster style and melancholic magic realism, knocked me out.

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