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The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao (2007)

by Junot Diaz

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
11,146426415 (3.86)1 / 614
Things have never been easy for Oscar. A ghetto nerd living with his Dominican family in New Jersey, he's sweet but disastrously overweight. He dreams of becoming the next J.R.R. Tolkien and he keeps falling in love. But poor Oscar may never get what he wants, thanks to the ancient curse that has haunted his family for generations.… (more)
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1960s (57)
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English (416)  French (4)  Danish (1)  Dutch (1)  Portuguese (Brazil) (1)  Catalan (1)  Swedish (1)  All languages (425)
Showing 1-5 of 416 (next | show all)
Ugh. So the whole thing was about a guy wanting to get laid and being willing to die for it? I liked the idea of the fuku but I felt like that wasn't the focus. Also, all of the talks about anatomical parts and Dominican men trying to get what they want didn't sit super well with the accusations against the author. I tried to separate the art from the artist, but with subject matter like this, it was very difficult. I'm not sure what the hype was about surrounding this book. ( )
  hopebarton2014 | Jun 15, 2020 |
Engaging and well-written. I learned a lot about the DR, tho plenty of the spanglish didn't have enough context to understand. ( )
  mitchtroutman | Jun 14, 2020 |
I loved:

The nerd culture. Of course. All the LotR references pulling right back into the Dominican Republic horrorshow. The space opera, the Role-Playing fun, the excellent Homage to Akira. With one exception: DUDE, DON'T DISS DUNE.

I loved just how amazing the characters are. Not just Oscar, but all the PoVs, the clever national history lesson, the epic family history, and not just New Jersey, but DR with Trujillo as Sauron. :) Totally brilliant.

I didn't love the tragedy.

Come on. I knew it was a tragedy before I started this. It's in the title. But like all tragedies, we have to hold onto just ONE THING. One thing to keep us going.

In this case, it's fat and obsessive Oscar finally living up the Dominican Republican tradition of: "Dude must get laid." You know, one time before he dies.

Just... damn.

Still, the rest of the novel is pretty awesome from start to finish as long as I'm just there to enjoy the hell out of the nerdy ride. And I did. :) ( )
  bradleyhorner | Jun 1, 2020 |
I would recommend this enthusiastically to someone else.
( )
  uncleflannery | May 16, 2020 |
Spoilerz. Really liked the first half; thought it lost a bit of its shine once Oscar gets to the DR. His emotional (and sexual) climax didn't fully hit home with me. After the incredible build of the first 300 pages, I was ready to die for Oscar, but those last 30 pages seemed rushed and I ended up not really fully sympathizing with him in the most heavy and brutal scenes.

But, I absolutely loved the voice of Yunior, the narrator. I don't think i've ever read a voice that seems to flow so easily and doesn't make "slang" or young-person talk or whatever sound totally forced and stupid. Having absolutely zero spanish, i feel like a lot was lost on me, but at least I know a few new words now. ( )
  Jetztzeit | May 15, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 416 (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 (6 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Junot Diazprimary authorall editionscalculated
Bragg, BillCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Corral, RodrigoCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Pareschi, SilviaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Snell, StaciNarratorsecondary authorsome 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.)
Disambiguation notice
Some editions contain the short story "Drown," narrated by Jonathan Davis
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