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The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao (edition 2008)

by Junot Diaz

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
8,024332400 (3.86)1 / 470
Member:remymomma
Title:The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao
Authors:Junot Diaz
Info:Riverhead Trade (2008), Edition: Reprint, Paperback, 339 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:*****
Tags:None

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The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz

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English (322)  French (4)  Dutch (1)  Spanish (1)  Danish (1)  Portuguese (Brazil) (1)  Catalan (1)  Swedish (1)  All languages (332)
Showing 1-5 of 322 (next | show all)
Realmente la forma en que Junot expresa esta historia es de una manera inimaginable, la forma en que el combinó la realidad y la fantasía, no tan solo de nuestro pueblo si no de los más allá de esa frontera, de este mar y de esta isla. Realmente los relatos que nos presenta Junot parecen meramente raros o no creíbles, pero en verdad lo son, es solo que él nos los transmite de una forma creativa y atractiva para un público fuera de nuestra tierra, lo hace atrayente a mentes pensantes en un esquema muy distinto al dominicano. Por otro lado, la historia tiene un lenguaje realmente crudo y fuerte, al menos la versión aplatanada que es la que hemos leído aquí en dominicana. Urraaa para ti Junot. ( )
  Pamelangeles | Jul 3, 2014 |
I don't have much to add to the general praise this book has gotten. The writing was sparkling from beginning to end, notwithstanding the fact that I didn't understand every tenth word. The first third or so seemed to meander but then it took off and all came together in the end. The book was as much about the horrors of Trujillo as it was about outsiders in America, of which being an immigrant was only part, together with other ingredients from Tolkien, role playing games, obesity, and an unrequited romantic. Ultimately, the novel lived up to its grandiose billing. ( )
  nosajeel | Jun 21, 2014 |
My library book club picked this book for June of 2014 based on the title and the fact that there was a Book Club Kit available. None of us had an idea what the book was even about. I'll be very interested to see what the other members think of it.

Oscar is an American but both his parents are from the Dominican Republic and that place looms large in their home. Oscar's family is believed to be doomed or the the Dominicans would say fuku. Oscar certainly seems to embody fuku. He is vastly overweight, nerdy and never been kissed. That latter aspect is perhaps the worst thing of all for a Dominican male. It is almost all Oscar can think about although he does manage to read science fiction and play Dungeons and Dragons and other nerdy stuff that I couldn't even grasp. His mother works two jobs and seems to have no clue about Oscar's life. His sister, Lola, does care about Oscar and tries to help him but she can only do so much.

As I was reading this I wished that I understood Spanish. There are a lot of Spanish words and phrases sprinkled throughout the book. Some I could figure out based upon the context but some eluded me. I guess I could have searched a Spanish translator on line but I don't read near a computer and it would have interrupted the flow of the book to go look. I suspect most Americans would not have as much trouble because they study Spanish even if they don't speak it.

I learned a lot about the Dominican Republic and especially the history of the island under the dictator Trujillo. I've never visited DR but I know it is a popular tourist destination. I wonder how many people who travel there for the sun and sand know the history.

This was an interesting book but I don't know that I would care to read any more by this author. ( )
  gypsysmom | Jun 20, 2014 |
Original post at Book Rhapsody.

***

Intro

The geek and the literary reader has a common book in their shelves. I think I am both. Obviously, my reading leans toward the more serious, highbrow books. I have attempted to read other genres, and when I did just recently, the fulfillment of finishing is just not as great as that with the books that I really like. This is not to say that anything that is not literary is not good. It’s just not me.

And although I am not a geeky reader, I am a geek by heart. Geekiness is not exclusive to science fiction, comic books, and such stuff that the stereotype geek is caught reading. My being a geek is something that is innate, something that is more metaphysical.

Which is not my point at all. We have a geeky protagonist to talk about, hence the introduction.

The Rhapsody

A book that flies from America to Dominican Republic and back and forth, this book is the coming of age tale of Oscar Wao. He is not Chinese, he is a Dominican, a fat Dominican, who is obsessed with everything that he does.

Why is his surname Wao then? That is actually not his surname. It’s just a made up nomenclature that you should find out for yourself. But that does not matter. Oscar Wao, apparently, is not the cool kid in town. His being fat alone is a testament to that. Nothing against fat people, but fatness alone does not give someone extra points in the social game. Not yet, but hopefully it will come soon.

Oscar is in the quest to finish and maybe publish a science fiction that he’s been working on since he realized that writing is a good way to cope up with loneliness. But really, that is just secondary to his life’s mission, and what is his primary mission then?

It is to go out with a girl. A woman. Make her fall in love. And die not a virgin.

Pathetic? Not so. Oscar is both an irksome and endearing character. His stubbornness gets him in all sorts of trouble, but one cannot help rooting for him for all his adventures and misadventures. Certainly, one is most likely expected to experience bloodshed if one is living in a country ruled by an ever present dictator.

Which brings me to point out that this novel is the marriage of Oscar’s tale and Trujillo’s footnotes. The latter may be distracting because they form a story of their own. Some footnotes even cover half a page, so one is prone to losing his way in the plot. It’s up to the reader to disregard them or read them after or read them concurrently. I did the last one because I have this impulse to read everything that is printed in a book.

Oscar’s life is drawn mostly from the Dominican belief of fuku and zafa. There is a curse in their family, but really, is this really the voodoo curse or is the family just plain unfortunate to have been subjected in unlikely circumstances?

And so it goes, Oscar trying to take the curse off. The title gives you a hint on what happened, but really, that is not the point. The journey is far more important than the end. It is a surprising adventure that is filled with hope, despair, the promise of friendship, and that untamed force that keeps us waging for a shot at happiness.

Final Notes

Recently, I met Junot Diaz.

No, we are not friends. We do not know each other. I am just a fan boy having his college mass market edition signed.

Junot Diaz is a fun person. He talks a lot, and he doesn’t have this I-am-the-boss air. His one hour talk about his book and random stuff led me to believe that he is a gregarious person.

And when the moment came for me to have my copy signed, here is the conversation that we had, as far as I can remember it:

J: Hello, I’m Junot.

A: Hi, I’m Angus.

J: Angus. I like that. So. What do you do?

A: Well, I’m a technical writer.

J: Hmm. (looks at me with a measured intensity)

A: Well, it’s not that fun. It’s not the type of writing that you do, like this writing. (points at the book)

J: But what do you want to do?

A: Well, I want to write these things. (points at the books)

J: Try starting by writing what a crazy day today is. Do not worry too much. It will come. It will follow. Okay? (nods nonstop, looks at me like we are in some complicity, that he merely made clear something that I already know)

A: Well, I will think of some way to sustain myself while writing. Thanks, Mr. Diaz.

J: You have a good day, Angus.

Whoops! Looks like I use “well” too much. ( )
  angusmiranda | Jun 10, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 322 (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 (30 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Junot Diazprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Diaz, Junotmain authorall editionsconfirmed
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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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Wikipedia in English (3)

Book description
From book cover: Things have never been easy for Oscar, a sweet but disastrously overweight ghetto nerd, a New Jersey romantic who 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 fukú--the ancient curse that has haunted Oscar's family for generations, dooming them to prison, torture, tragic accidents, and, above all, ill-starred love. Oscar, still dreaming of his first kiss, is only its most recent victim--until the fateful summer that he decides to be its last.

With dazzling energy and insight, Junot Diaz immerses us in the uproarious lives of our hero Oscar, his runaway sister Lola, and their ferocious beauty-queen mother Belicia, and in the family's epic journey from Santo Domingo to Washington Heights to NewJersey's Bergenline and back again. Rendered with uncommon warmth and humor, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao presents an astonishing vision of the contemporary American experience and the endless human capacity to persevere--and to risk all--in the name of love.
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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 4 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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