Saturday, April 4, 2009

The Brief Wonderous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz

Rating: 3 out of 5
Pages: 335
Genre: Fiction
Series: No
Publication Date: 2007

Synopsis (From Google Books):
This is the long-awaited first novel from one of the most original and memorable writers working today. Things 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.

I really don't know where to start. I don't know if it is because I have not been really able to read a book for a while or that my life has been for its normal orbit. But whatever the reason. I don't think that it affected how I felt about this book. Not that I think this book is bad, but I don't think that it deserved the hype (or Pulitzer) that it received.

First off, the book is not really about the life of Oscar Wao (actually his last name is De Leon). Oscar is a central character but not the main character like the title implies. In my view the main theme about this book is about the lives of the De Leon family and the circumstances that caused them to be in Jersey. This all leads up to Oscar, but its not all about Oscar (if that makes sense).

What is the story really about? It is about the bad luck that follows the De Leon family. It all starts in the Dominican Republic, travels to New Jersey, and back again to the Dominican Republic. The bad luck and the history of the De Leon family is the central theme. In fact, I think that there was more about the Oscar's mother's past than there was about Oscar himself.

The story was written in third person. By an ex-boyfriend of Oscar's sister who is familiar with the family and it's history. This is one of the books weaknesses to me. The narrator has a tendency to use terms that get on my nerves and the language is often time vulgar. Now I don't mind vulgarity normally but I was expecting more since this is a Pulitzer Prize winning book. Also, I think that some of the terms that the author choice to use were wrong. For example, Diaz used the term n**ger alot (not in the racist way) but I think that he should have used n**ga. Now for some people there isn't a difference and they are both offensive. I, personally, think that when using the term in a slang like manner you should use n**ga. It is more of the street term, unless Dominicans use it differently than black people do.

Another thing that bothered me, and another blogger pointed it out was that the footnotes. I think that they were completely unnecessary and just ignored them for the most part. Some of them took up most of the page. This is a fictional story not a history book. Why use footnotes? If you can't put the basic idea in the storyline than why use it. I don't think skipping the footnotes influenced my feeling towards this book.

I read a couple of reviews that compared this book to "The Catcher In The Rye". I don't get the comparison. They are both about boys who don't fit in. But "The Catcher In The Rye" allowed a deeper look into the main character and what they were feeling. I never got to really see what Oscar was feeling. I just sort of had to guest. I would have rather this story been told in Oscar's prospective. I think that it would have been made it a lot better. Instead of guessing why Oscar did the things that he did, I would know and feel a little connected with him.

One of the things that I liked about this books was the glimpse into Dominican cultural beliefs and history. I personally know very about the Dominican Republic and this book did give great backgrounds information.

Pros: History, Culture, Plot
Cons: Language, Characters, Point of View

Overall Recommendation:
I don't know. I am on the fence about this one. I want to recommend it but I don't want to recommend it. It's a toss up.

Library Challenge (8 out of 25)
The Pulitzer Project (2 out of 5)

Pulitzer Prize (2008)
National Book Critics Circle Award (2007)
And others

Other Reviews:
Passion for the Pages
Sew Transformed

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1 comment:

  1. Interesting review. I have this on my list -- I'll be posting a review when I get to it!