Monday, January 14, 2008

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz

This review was also posted to my blog. All the book-lovers out there be sure to check it out, especially if anyone likes cigars as well!

Never has a family history been so utterly engrossing. Junot Diaz's debut novel "The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao," chronicles several generations of a Dominican American family, from the mystical Santa Domingo to the ghetto of North Jersey. Enter our hero, Oscar- the sci-fi obsessed, overweight, heir to the family history, whom even in adulthood never quite escapes teen angst.

The title of the novel is slightly misleading- as Oscar may be the most sympathetic character of the novel- but cannot accurately be considered it's center. The story skips between various branches of a family tree as they experience the trials and tribulations of everything from a violent authoritarian regime to the difficulties in getting a modern masterpiece (supposedly) of science fiction literature published.

Diaz's mouthpiece and narrator is Oscar's alter-ego and walking Dominican stereotype, Yunior. Yunior's ability to be embedded in the families affairs is only surpassed by his surprising knowledge of their history. The clearly intelligent, womanizing and pop culture obsessed spinner of our story manages to become a secondary hero. Although only a minor character in the narrative, the insights gained into his character through the narrative create a deeper familiarity that ingratiates him to the reader.

The crux of the story and it's driving force lies not within the plot itself, however, but in the hypnotic pull of Diaz's prose. Diaz's unique blend of surprisingly coherent Spanglish combines elements of the profane and poetic with aplomb. All Diaz's backgrounds and elements combine to form an astonishingly beautiful patchwork. While it might be understandable for a rookie novelist to approach such a tall order with trepidation, this work resounds with confidence. "The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao," serves as nothing less than Diaz assuming his rightful position as an accepted master of his craft.

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