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The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao (edition 2008)

by Junot Diaz

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7,821None423 (3.86)1 / 460
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:*****
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The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz

2008 (47) 2009 (57) 21st century (51) American (64) American literature (51) book club (36) Caribbean (40) coming of age (113) contemporary fiction (51) Dominican (74) Dominican Republic (437) family (80) fiction (1,051) immigrants (96) immigration (43) Kindle (37) Latin America (45) literature (82) love (41) nerd (37) nerds (46) New Jersey (170) novel (174) Pulitzer (136) Pulitzer Prize (157) read (96) to-read (172) Trujillo (57) unread (50) USA (40)
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English (311)  French (3)  Dutch (1)  Spanish (1)  Danish (1)  Portuguese (Brazil) (1)  Catalan (1)  Swedish (1)  All languages (320)
Showing 1-5 of 311 (next | show all)
I have heard about this book, probably around the time it came out, or when it won its Pulitzer Award and National Book Circle Critics Award (among others) in 2008. When I found the book in a second-hand shop I could not resist, and it's a good thing I didn't.
Oscar Wao is an overweight Dominican boy growing up in New Jersey. He is obsessed with science fiction and fantasy, falls in love with several girls (but fails to get a relationship because of his introverted character and looks) and lives under a Dominican family curse (Fuku). The story is told in several parts (Oscar's youth, his family's history, Oscar's end) and by several people.
I read books purely for enjoyment. I know books like these have multiple layers and meanings, but when I read just before (or during) falling asleep, all I want is a bit of entertainment. In this book, I think I've missed half the story because of that (in fact, looking at the Wikipedia entry for this book, I know I did). But that doesn't really matter to me, because I still enjoyed it a lot. Junot Díaz writes in a way that feels like a good storyteller is telling the story to you. The only thing that I did not like was all the Spanish in the book. I don't speak/read/understand Spanish, and didn't really feel like looking it up. I understand why the Spanish was used and that it enhanced the story, but I missed that enhancement. Because of that, the book gets four out of five stars. ( )
  divinenanny | Mar 26, 2014 |
I read this book a long time ago and remember loving it. I think I may have to go back and put it on the "to reread" list because based on some of the other reviews, I fear I've missed some of the awesomeness. ( )
  khaalidah | Mar 14, 2014 |
Diaz's prose makes the book. ( )
  joyhclark | Mar 13, 2014 |
I would have given it five stars except that my lack of knowledge of the Spanish language made it very difficult to read. There are a few words or phrases on every page that I had to loom up, which interrupted the flow of my reading. :-( Why no include translations? Otherwise an excellent story, excellent characters, lots to make me uncomfortable about US foreign policy with regard to Santo Domingo. ( )
  patsemple | Mar 3, 2014 |
I tried to listen to this one on a couple car trips and just could not get into it. Interesting Dominican history in there - may have been too much to digest while driving. ( )
  dms02 | Feb 27, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 311 (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.”
Last words
(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.
Haiku summary

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 13 descriptions

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