The Brief Wondrous Life Of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz

Mike’s review

I remember seeing Diaz on Colbert Report like 10 years ago. That was so badass. An author on a talk show? Unprecedented! I didn’t know about Dick Cavet then. Still, unprecedented at the time. And now, still. I wanted to read this book so badly. Oakland Public Library didn’t have a copy though, so when I was poor and couldn’t afford books, I didn’t read it. It was always the dream to find a copy at Salvation Army, but it never popped up. Which felt surprising and made me covet the book more. So, there may be some unrealistic expectations coming out here. I expected the Loch Ness Monster of literary fiction.


I feel like the superfluous swears–“[His love] had the density of a dwarf-mothingfucking-star […]”–is part of what won this such critical acclaim–“It’s so real, ya know.”–but I find it distracting and incongruous. Intelligent people swear, but a lot of this feels shoehorned.


Dominican story that narrows itself into being “about” Oscar, as opposed to normal path of a story about Oscar that reveals a greater Dominican truth. Which means it covers too much and kinda isn’t really about anything. Hews too close to a history book for me. Again, this is probably part of why it received such critical acclaim. That’s the closest I’m coming to a plot summary, too, because there isn’t much of a plot really.


“this was before the whitekids [sic] started their invasion, when you could walk the entire length of Upper Manhattan and see not a single yoga mat.” The use of an item/possession from white culture reminds me of “used to be you’d walk down North Street and not see a single taco.” The flip of gentrification vs whatever it’s called when people of color move in (is there a term for that?)


Dashes to not reveal words: place names, people’s names, here bits of dialogue. Seems especially prevalent, though not exclusive to, Latino writing. I’ve seen it the most in nouns, like “he walked down K—- Street.” Here Diaz uses it (infrequently) for bits of dialogue though, too. I feel like Crime and Punishment does this. But I associate it mostly with Latino writing. Am I racist? And what’s the point? VV, any input here?


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