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The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao (edition 2007)

by Junot Díaz

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
8,306343376 (3.86)1 / 488
Member:alynnk
Title:The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao
Authors:Junot Díaz
Info:Riverhead Hardcover (2007), Hardcover, 352 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:***
Tags:September, 2008, borrowed, library, @read: not in library

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The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz

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English (332)  French (4)  Dutch (1)  Spanish (1)  Danish (1)  Portuguese (Brazil) (1)  Catalan (1)  Swedish (1)  All languages (342)
Showing 1-5 of 332 (next | show all)
A gritty multi-generational novel in a brutally honest voice (often rendered in Dominican spanglish). The calamity that awaits the Nerd of New Jersey was actually easier to digest than the savagery and corruption of the dictator Trujillo. ( )
  albertgoldfain | Mar 13, 2015 |
the first book I've been unable to finish in 4 yrs. ( )
  e-b | Mar 11, 2015 |
Whew! What a ride! The narrative of this book was like listening to Spanglish shot from a cannon.

The book was excellent, though terribly depressing. The deepest feeling that I took from this book was so much sadness and hurt for Oscar whom I grew to care about very much through the pages of this novel.

Where to begin? This book is about almost everything Dominican. It incorporates history in telling about life in the Dominican Republic under Trujillo and afterward. It's a family saga which follows the life of four generations of one family who always travel back to the county of their birth. Social issues such as class status, relations with Haitian, the USA as a safe haven, and the role of putas (prostitutes) are addressed. Superstition and folklore are also part of this saga.

By the way, if you know Spanish fairly well, you will get a much deeper insight into this book's psyche. Junot Diaz flows so easily from English to Spanish that Spanish-speakers will barely be aware of the transition.

The footnotes! They were wonderful. They not only gave an explanation of historical facts (often colored by the author's point of view), but they also gave an insight as to how the author related to the characters of this book and to real Dominican historical figures.

In the end, I was thoroughly impressed with the detail of this debut novel, but extremely sad at the fictitious developments of the novel which had such a true ring.

Addendum: For anyone who has had the good fortune to hear Junot Diaz in person, the way the novel reads is the way he speaks. Colorful and entertaining. :) ( )
  SqueakyChu | Feb 13, 2015 |
I liked this book more than I expected to, and I'm likely to read more Junot Diaz in the future. Even though I missed a good chunk of the novel due to my complete lack of Spanish, and even though it's full of footnotes (which I generally dislike in my fiction), I found this book compelling. And, I found it compelling even though this is not a happy novel.

But it feels real. Most characters are so distinct and filled out, complex with desires and goals that aren't always the most honorable. There is no magical redemption, no saving grace... just life, in a harsh and yet somehow beautiful way.

This book has violence, both physical and emotional. It has love, in its most twisted manifestations. It has degradation, and ostracization. It has hope and resignation, sometimes in the same thought.

Yes, I liked this one. ( )
  ThePortPorts | Feb 7, 2015 |
When I started this book I had no idea that I would keep turning the pages until it was finished - and then start over again to read at a more leisurely pace.

Oscar and his family came to life for me as I read the book. On some level their lives are relatable to anyone - no matter where in the world they live, no matter what their finances.

As someone who is familiar only with the all-inclusive vacations offered in the DR, I am embarrassed to admit that the history of the land and its people was new to me. This book provided a brief overview and I'm not sure I will ever be able to look at the DR the same way again.

I know an 'Oscar' (doesn't everyone?) Diaz' portrait of this sweet, nerdy, socially inept, RPG playing romantic was right on the money for me. ( )
  EvelynBernard | Feb 6, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 332 (next | show all)
Díaz’s novel also has a wild, capacious spirit, making it feel much larger than it is. Within its relatively compact span, “The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao” contains an unruly multitude of styles and genres. The tale of Oscar’s coming-of-age is in some ways the book’s thinnest layer, a young-adult melodrama draped over a multigenerational immigrant family chronicle that dabbles in tropical magic realism, punk-rock feminism, hip-hop machismo, post-postmodern pyrotechnics and enough polymorphous multiculturalism to fill up an Introduction to Cultural Studies syllabus.
 
It is Mr. Díaz’s achievement in this galvanic novel that he’s fashioned both a big picture window that opens out on the sorrows of Dominican history, and a small, intimate window that reveals one family’s life and loves. In doing so, he’s written a book that decisively establishes him as one of contemporary fiction’s most distinctive and irresistible new voices.
 
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Epigraph
Of what import are brief, nameless lives . . . to Galactus?? (Fantastic Four, Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, Vol. 1, No. 49, April 1966)
Christ have mercy on all sleeping things!
From that dog rotting down Wrightson Road
to when I was a dog on these streets;
if loving these islands must be my load,
out of corruption my soul takes wings,
But they had started to poison my soul
with their big house, big car, bit-time hbohl,
coolie, nigger, Syrian, and French Creole,
so I leave it for them and their carnival--
I taking a sea-bath, I gone down the road.
I know these islands from Monos to Nassau,
a rusty head sailor with sea-green eyes
that they nickname Shabine, the patois for
any red nigger, and I, Shabine, saw
when these slums of empire was paradise.
I'm just a red nigger who love the sea,
I had a sound colonial education,
I have Dutch, nigger, and English in me,
and either I'm nobody, or I'm a nation.
(Derek Walcott)
Dedication
Elizabeth de Leon
First words
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.
Quotations
You wanna smoke?
I might partake. Just a little though. I would not want to cloud my faculties.
“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. Fukú americanus, or more colloquially, fukú–generally a curse or a doom of some kind; specifically the Curse and the Doom of the New World. Also called the fukú of the Admiral because the Admiral was both its midwife and one of its great European victims; despite “discovering” the New World the Admiral died miserable and syphilitic, hearing (dique) divine voices. In Santo Domingo, the Land He Loved Best (what Oscar, at the end, would call the Ground Zero of the New World), the Admiral’s very name has become synonymous with both kinds of fukú, little and large; to say his name aloud or even to hear it is to invite calamity on the heads of you and yours.”
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0739494287, Paperback)

Brief biographical study.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 14:02:55 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

Oscar, an overweight Dominican from a New Jersey ghetto, dreams of becoming a writer and finding love, but a Fuku curse has haunted his family for generations, and may well prevent him from attaining his desires.

(summary from another edition)

» see all 14 descriptions

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