Friday, March 22, 2013

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

After reading This Is How You Lose Her, the latest book by Pulitzer Prize winner, Junot Diaz, I was hooked on his innovative writing style and unusual characters. His earlier book, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, is equally stylistic. Yunior, who appears in inter-linking stories in This Is How You Lose Her, is the narrator of the earlier novel, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. When not the narrator, Yunior is the sex-obsessed Rutgers roommate of Oscar--a roommate who is a foil for Diaz's anti-hero. Whereas Yunior is confident, cocky, and highly macho, Oscar is an overweight and depressed nerd, completely immersed in comic books and fantasy novels. He compulsively writes in his journals. He has no friends and is constantly bullied in the college cafeteria. When not living in the world of Tolkien, Oscar falls in love with unsuitable and unattainable women, ultimately putting himself in harm's way. Is this Oscar's death wish or is he simply a foolish romantic who cannot tell fiction from reality?
Like Oscar, Yunior is a writer. And like the character in This Is How You Lose Her, he is the same womanizer who cannot be true to the woman he really loves. Only in dreams is he able to reveal his feelings.

Before all hope died I used to have this stupid dream that shit could be saved, that we would be in bed together like the old times, with the fan on, the smoke from our weed drifting above us, and I'd finally try to say works that could have saved us.

__________ __________ ____________.

But before I can shape the vowels I wake up.  My face is wet, and that's how you know it's never going to come true.

Never, ever. (p. 327)

The Brief Life of Oscar Wao is far more than the adventures of a maladroit teenager.   The story of Beli, Oscar's mother, is a tragic immigrant tale. It interweaves the brutal history of 1940s and 1950s Dominican Republic under the notorious dictator Rafael Trujillo, all the while, painting a picture of a colorful and strong woman whose hard life ultimately embitters her.

If you love adventurous writing and unusual characters, Juno Diaz is an author to read, discuss, and enjoy.

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