Monday, October 06, 2008

Best Terrible Oversight

When I made my post about Latin Literature Month I left out something BIG, I guess I was too caught up in giving Mexican High what it deserved to remember everything I read.

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz

Junot Diaz is a Dominican author that I actually studied in one of my last classes at BYU and his first novel, (this one), won the 2007 Pulitzer. It's a pretty fun (and I live in a world where just because I call a book "fun" doesn't mean that it can't be serious, deep, or terrifying, too) book, the tale of an overweight Dominican nerd growing up in Jersey dealing with dealing with the curse that his family brought with them when they left the DR for the US.

That's a very simplified plot-synopsis.

If you're going to read this book it would be helpful to 1) know a good deal of Spanish, because plenty is included without translation [ANOTHER problem with Mexican High--just about none of the Spanish is left untranslated, it pretty much is not a joke if I say much of the dialog of the book read like this, ""Gracias, mi amor"'Thank you, my love' He said] and 2) know a whole lot of nerd language, because this book is jam-packed. There's probably one Lord of the Rings reference per paragraph and an obscure 70's Marvel hero reference per page. But something you do not need to know before reading this book is the history of the Dominican Republic, particularly in regards to their dictator Trujillo because he or his very-present absent presence are practically the main character of the book and ample footnotes catch you up and fill you in on all you could need to know about him.

In all, I felt this book was a three-and-a-half star book, not a full glorious four stars...don't know exactly why, while I enjoyed a lot of it, and it seems nearly ridiculous to suggest this, but it just didn't crackle with as much life as I had was good, but not was engrossing as I had hoped. Maybe I liked Diaz's short story collection, Drown, more? Can't remember, it's been so long...but that might be the case. Still, and I know I'm giving you the wrong idea, but this book was good and it was one of the highlights of Latin Literature Month (and my need to read it was a major factor in my mind's birthing of the notion of a need for a personal Latin Literature Month).


1) A few people thought I told them I was reading the Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wilde, and it wasn't until I was a few hundred pages into the book that it clicked for me that Oscar's apellido was not fact, turns out (and I'm not giving anything away here) that "Oscar Wao" is a reference to Oscar Wilde.

2) All Dominican literature talks about Trujillo a lot. This is something I definitely remember from that BYU class where I read Diaz and others (Trent Hickmans "New Latino Literature" seminar)

1 comment:

Tannerama said...

Trujillo was bad bad bad guy. He was basically the Dominican Hitler. I remember hearing families in my mission who had family members that just vanished during the time the he was running things and of course I would have the occasional guy that said that the DR was better WITH Trujillo because crime was down and stuff. I heard he even directly challenged Hitler because he was crazy. The story is that when Hitler got word of it he walked over to a map and put his thumb over the Dominican Republic and said basically "Why should I care what he has to say?"

I'd really like to read this book.