Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Brief Wonderous Life of Oscar Wao

A while back a friend of mine recommended this book as an excellent read, and then in early April I was wondering around at the local farmer's market and toddled into the prerequisite used book store. A flyer announced that the book store would be hosting a book club featuring this book. Unfortunately, I thought the meeting was tonight, but I realized earlier today that the book under discussion was something by Salman Rushdie and not Junot Diaz.

Anyway, I'm glad I read it even if it was too early.

This book appears to be a biography of sort of one Oscar de Leon. The narrator, Yunior (Junot Diaz) occasionally stops the narration to explain things, sometimes in great detail and always with a great deal of humor, usually of the noirish variety), in footnote form. It reads many times like an unauthorized historical account.

The title character is a young Dominican man who is sooo not the stereotypical Dominican male. He a sci-fi nerd of the highest order and goes through life reading all manner of sci-fi books, watching various sci-fi television shows and films, and uses high falutin language with everyone at all times.

Though really I have practically nothing in common with the title character, I do feel a certain kinship with him. Hispanic, big reader, loves sci-fi/fantasy, and thinks and uses words that are just not in vogue anymore. I actually think in that narrative style, those high falutin words when I frame my thoughts. Then I have to translate it all into everyday language or run the risk of not being understood by friends and family, or just being thought of as an incredible snob and otherwise pretentious.

Anyway, has anyone else read this book?


  1. I saw/heard Juno Diaz read, and met him afterward. What a wondrous person. L loves his work.

  2. Hi Cuppa Jo - I read this book last year - I agree that the main character was so intriguing -along with his sister, and there was lots of great humor in the book. How did you feel about the footnotes? Sometimes they were interesting -more than I wanted to know about Trujillo -- but I found that they interrupted the flow and I found it annoying to have to stop and read them before I could turn the page. I don't think I've ever read fiction in this format before.(Maybe it is an OCD tendency that I'd never dream of skipping them!) I remember also feeling a little left out because I didn't know all the spanish slang. I started writing down a list of all the words starting with "galletazo" and ending with "monita" - there were 33 words and I think I gave up writing them down halfway through the book. I did finish the book and would read Junot Diaz again in a minute!

  3. I actually like the footnotes though they did interrupt the flow, especially in the middle of the sentence. However, I started reading it aloud, in character, in a sort of East LA lingo, so when I got to the footnotes I would actually stop the narration with a 'footnote number 1', etc., and then get right back into the story. It added a certain entertainment factor.

    I am lucky that I understand some Spanish and the slang. There were only a few terms I didn't get but was able after reading the sentence to weedle out the meaning. I did wonder though how people who didn't understand the slang would fare.

    I'd be interested in reading more of his stuff too.