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review 2016-10-31 20:17
The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao - Junot Diaz

Another book I picked up from a used book sale. The book grabbed me by its intro, which mixes pop culture and scifi/fantasy references with historical details from the Dominican Republic and a little bit of magic and curses. How does that even work? How is it possible that the first chapters describe the life and times of a teenaged boy whose defining tragedy is an inability to get laid? How can a book be so well-written and finely imagined that it managed to sell me on the story I am least interested in hearing? 

 

But Junot Diaz made Oscar's story gripping, not pathetic. And I'm glad I stuck with him, because Oscar's story gave way to stories about his mother, his sister, his grandmother, their lives together and apart, in the States and in the Dominican Republic, living in a political climate that I can't even imagine, surviving unbelievable, almost supernatural events. I could not put this book down and I felt that I understood, in the end, how it all came together. 

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text 2016-10-25 18:21
The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao - Junot Diaz
Read from October 20 to 21, 2016

 

This is another one I've had for a really long time and just got around to reading. For the record I got all the Sci Fi, and Fantasy, and anime references(yea I'm that kinda nerd). Most of the Spanish was beyond me. At first I looked everything up, but with the footnotes it just got to tedious so I ended up winging it. I still really enjoyed it. I wasnt crazy about the ending which was the only thing that keep this from being a 5 star for me.
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review 2016-05-31 05:10
The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz
The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao - Junot Diaz

31/5 - This isn't working for me. The footnotes are bothering me particularly. I barely know anything about the Dominican Republic and I feel like Diaz expects me to be well versed in their history and their notable historical figures, as well as other pop culture references that are as clear as mud to me. For example, on page five he mentions Darkseid's Omega Effect and Morgoth's Bane and while there is a footnote it made me even more confused, it starts out with

'"I am the Elder King: Melkor, first and mightiest of all the Valar, who was before the world and made it. The shadow of my purpose lies upon Arda, and all that is in it bends slowly and surely to my will."'

and continues on waffling like that for another few sentences. I have no idea if that's from a book, movie, video game or something else entirely and that means that whatever Diaz was trying to tell me by including that reference in the book has been completely lost on me, and however many other readers don't understand the quote.

Another source of constant confusion, and thus frustration, is the use of untranslated Spanish phrases. I don't speak Spanish, I read Spanish even less so if you want to use another language in a book written in English there needs to be a translation within the text or a dictionary at the back. Not being able to read whole lines of dialogue because I don't read the correct language can really alienate a reader (this one especially). These few lines on page 26 encompasses all my frustration

'Listen, palomo: you have to grab a muchacha, y meteselo. That will take care of everything. Start with a fea. Coje that fea y meteselo!'

What does any of that mean?! It's not like it's a single word that I can determine the meaning of through the context of the surrounding words. It's all incomprehensible to me and means that the surrounding scene makes that much less sense.

I'd gotten to the point that before having a look at some of the other reviews I was thinking of DNFing. Now that I've read those reviews and understand that my problems are not mine alone and that they won't magically disappear by the end of the chapter has encouraged me to stop thinking of DNFing and simply do it. Life's too short to read books I'm not enjoying (and highly unlikely to begin enjoying at any time within the 335 pages of the book), maybe if there was a big revelation and turnaround I could will myself to keep going, but the reviews don't mention anything of the sort, so I just can't do it.

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review 2015-11-25 14:08
The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao - Junot Díaz
The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao - Junot Diaz

This book had been recommended to me over and over but I kept putting it off. Now I understand why everybody wanted me to read it.

 

 

This book shows you the life of Oscar and his family in a very special, latinamerican way, with passion, fury, magic and resignation. It truly felt as if I was reading a modern, 2.0 version of Gabriel García Marquez's work. And I love García Marquez so you'll understand my happiness lol

What really intrigued me is how good english-speaking people can understand this book because it's mostly in spanglish and it has entire phrases in spanish. For me it was easy because I that is my native language and I also speak English, but I know not many english-speaking people speak spanish. Did any of you have any problems with it?

 

Well, in the end it was a fast, fun, entertaining and heart breaking book and I'm very glad I finally read Junot Diaz's work because I want to read everything else he's written :

 

 

 

 

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review 2015-05-25 23:22
The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao - Junot Diaz
The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao - Junot Diaz

I'm really not sure what I can say about The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. I'm not even 100% sure I actually enjoyed it.

 

It's the story of several generations of a Dominican family and the supposed curse that lingers around them from the time of the Dominican dictator Trujillo. Chronologically, it begins in the Dominican Republic and ends in New York, where the titular Oscar goes to college, an SFF nerd with precisely zero luck in his love life.

 

It's pretty clear that Oscar Wao is A Good Book, even A Serious Book, though the narrative voice is spirited, informal, laden with footnotes and scatterings of Spanish (I don't speak Spanish, so that was tricky). It's doing a lot of thinking about Themes: about diaspora and culture and power and love and other things I haven't quite sorted out in my head yet. It's also quite powerful emotionally, especially the ending, although again I haven't got my head around that yet.

 

There's a but behind all of this, though I suspect that it's nothing more than "but it wasn't quite my cup of tea". There's a good deal of sex in the book, plenty of swearing and internalised misogyny: Oscar Wao is violent in that respect, uncompromisingly pragmatic about what it's like to live in a dictatorship and uncompromising, too, when it comes to human nature. There are no heroes here, none of the Frodos or Luke Skywalkers Oscar idolises; just people trying for the most part to stay out of trouble. I guess that's indirectly another "but", though: I occasionally felt the book was unfair to nerdhood everywhere. Yes, there's nothing intrinsically good about nerds, but neither is there anything intrinsically bad. There are bitter nerds like Oscar, but there are also kind ones, accepting ones, ones who even want to go out with other nerds. (I know, right?! </sarcasm>) Knowing your Tolkien mythology does not automatically make you irredeemable to normal society, and I think occasionally Diaz loses sight of that.

 

A good read, though. I don't know that I'd read it again, but worth the time.

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