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The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by…

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao (original 2007; edition 2007)

by Junot Díaz

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9,204385325 (3.87)1 / 557
Title:The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao
Authors:Junot Díaz
Info:Riverhead Hardcover (2007), Hardcover, 352 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:September, 2008, borrowed, library, @read: not in library

Work details

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz (2007)

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    In the Time of Butterflies by Julia Alvarez (weener)
    weener: Oscar Wao mentions In the Time of the Butterflies in a footnote. Both dealing so gracefully with the Trujillo regime, they seem like complementary books.
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    Caribbean Connections: The Dominican Republic by Anne Callin (sungene)
    sungene: To learn more about the DR, and for an essay by Junot Díaz.
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    andomck: Neuromancer is exactly the type of 80's nerd culture that Oscar Wait submerged himself in.
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    weener: One is fiction, one is non-fiction. One is in Latin America, one is in Asia. Both are heartbreaking, deeply affecting tales of life under totalitarianism.
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1960s (105)

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English (374)  French (4)  Spanish (2)  Dutch (1)  Danish (1)  Catalan (1)  Portuguese (Brazil) (1)  Swedish (1)  All languages (385)
Showing 1-5 of 374 (next | show all)
Vulgar and irreverent trip through three generations of Dominican history. The prose is replete with imaginative cocktails of Spanglish and comic-book geek-speak that possibly makes it impenetrable to anyone who isn't a Hispanic sci-fi fan. ( )
  Humberto.Ferre | Sep 28, 2016 |
Goodreads says that 1 star means "Did not like it" and 2 stars means "It was okay." It was not okay. It was dull. I gave it about 60 pages and then gave up due to boredom, despite getting a large portion of the endless references. Still, I feel I must be missing something, due to the reviews, but this book is not for me. ( )
  valzi | Sep 7, 2016 |
Three and a half, really. Yunior is really fully fledged; Oscar less so. Uninterested in the flashbacks. ( )
  benjaminsiegel | Jul 30, 2016 |
An overweight nerd obsessed with fantasy novels, longing to be the Dominican J. R. R. Tolkien, Oscar “Wao” De Leon dreams of finding love. Unfortunately, his sweetness and comic book obsession more or less guarantee that Oscar will die a virgin, even if he and his family were not cursed by a powerful fuku that has tormented them for generations. Exploring the suffering of the Dominican people under the dictatorship of Rafael Trujillo, the immigrant experience in the United States, pop culture, and the act of storytelling, Junot Diaz' novel packs a powerful punch.

I should note: the narrator is not the titular character. The story is actually told by Yunior, Oscar's college roommate and polar opposite. While Oscar just wants to find a true love, Yunior has many girlfriends (often at the same time). Oscar is out of shape and awkward; Yunior is lean and fit and oozes charm. In the life of his friend Oscar, Yunior recognizes a heroic and tragic figure, and he weaves Oscar's story into the greater fate of the Dominican Republic. The book is full of references to pop and nerd culture, and frequently footnoted with extra information.

This isn't the easiest book to read. The characters freely switch between English, Spanish, and some sort of slang Spanglish. Although I recognized some of the Spanish from my high school classes, I sometimes missed the nuance of what was being said. But I didn't mind, because the language choices gave the narrator a truly distinctive voice and represented the mixing of cultures that created both Yunior and Oscar.

Sometimes you can appreciate the interesting things that an author does with his words, admire his crafting of sentences and plots, but still not like the story that much. That's what happened with The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. I am full of admiration for the way Diaz pulled his story together, mingling American culture with Dominican history and finding parallels between them, but I formed no emotional attachments. I didn't find the characters appealing, and I was rarely invested in their troubles or their fates. Maybe it was the Spanish language gap, but I always felt somewhat removed from the characters' minds and motivations. My initial interest with the writing faded as the book wound on, and I really had to push myself to finish it through to the end. ( )
  makaiju | Jul 21, 2016 |
I was not initially overwhelmed by this book. The prose is interesting, in a street-wise kind of way, but the story was slow to materialize and the characters each are given turns at developing, which takes some time. Ultimately, I came to love Oscar and his family, particularly his sister, Lola. I began to cheer for Oscar, even as there is so very little to cheer for. In the end, a very satisfying ending. Give this book a chance and it may just steal your heart. ( )
  bpeters65 | Jul 16, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 374 (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.

» Add other authors (15 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Junot Diazprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Pareschi, SilviaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Snell, StaciNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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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)
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.
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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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0739494287, Paperback)

Brief biographical study.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:24:23 -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 13 descriptions

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