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The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao Discount.

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The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao Discount.

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The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao Description:

The most talked about—and praised—first novel of 2007, and winner of the Pulitzer Prize.

Oscar is a sweet but disastrously overweight ghetto nerd who—from the New Jersey home he shares with his old world mother and rebellious sister— dreams of becoming the Dominican J.R.R. Tolkien and, most of all, finding love. But Oscar may never get what he wants. Blame the fukú—a curse that has haunted Oscar’s family for generations, following them on their epic journey from Santo Domingo to the USA. Encapsulating Dominican-American history, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao opens our eyes to an astonishing vision of the contemporary American experience and explores the endless human capacity to persevere—and risk it all—in the name of love.

  • Amazon Sales Rank: #748 in Books
  • Published on: 2008-09-02
  • Original language: English
  • Number of items: 1
  • Binding: Paperback
  • 352 pages


Customer Reviews:

“I did all I could and it still wasn’t enough.”5
“You really want to know what being an X-Man feels like? Just be a smart bookish boy of color in a contemporary U.S. ghetto. Mamma mia! Like having bat wings or a pair of tentacles growing out of your chest.”

Meet Oscar de León. Once upon a time, in elementary school, Oscar was a slick Dominican kid who seemed to have a typical life ahead of him. Then, around the time he hit puberty, Oscar gained a whole lot of weight, became awkward both physically and socially, and got deeply interested in things that made him an outcast among his peers (sci-fi novels, comics, Dungeons & Dragons, writing novels, etc.). A particularly unfortunate Dr. Who Halloween costume earns him the nickname Oscar Wao for the costume’s resemblance to another Oscar: playwright Oscar Wilde (Wao being a Dominican spin on the surname). His few friends are embarrassed by him, girls want nothing to do with him, and everywhere he goes Oscar finds nothing but derision and hostility. And he’s not the only person in his family suffering through life: his mother, a former beauty, has been ravaged by illness, bad love affairs, and worry regarding her two children; and his sister Lola, another intense beauty, has been cursed with a nomadic soul and her mother’s poor taste in men.

The kicker about the de León family? They just may be the victims of a bona fide curse (a particularly nasty one at that, called a fukú) as a result of their history with Rafael Trujillo, a former dictator of the Dominican Republic renowned for his brutality, and whose enemies uniformly met with disastrous ends one way or another (historical details about Trujillo and the history of his reign are scattered throughout the novel, a tidbit that may turn some off of the book, but rest assured that Díaz is so utterly entertaining a writer that they are a joy to read). The de Leóns are on a collision course with disaster, but can they break the curse before it’s too late?

“you can never run away. Not ever. The only way out is in.”

Embroiled in all this mess is Yunior, our primary narrator and Oscar’s former college roommate (not to mention the philandering ex-boyfriend of Lola, the novel’s other narrator), whose experiences with the de León clan will haunt him for the rest of his life. His attempts to help Oscar become more popular fail, as do his tries to escape Oscar’s grasp. “These days,” he remarks at one point, “I have to ask myself: What made me angrier? That Oscar, the fat loser, quit, or that Oscar, the fat loser, defied me? And I wonder: What hurt him more? That I was never really his friend, or that I pretended to be?”

Oscar is far and away the most poignant character to come along in a great long while; in my book he’s every bit as memorable as Ignatius J. Reilly, Holden Caulfield, Randall Patrick McMurphy, and other literary giants. Furthermore, “The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao” is a phenomenal novel that is hysterical, hypnotic, heartwarming and heartbreaking in equal parts (and quite often at the same time). The plot is a madcap high-wire act balanced with astonishing dexterity by Junot Díaz. If he has a misstep it is in the denouement, which is rather sudden and slightly lacking in clarity for an otherwise thorough novel. Nonetheless, I loved, loved, loved this book. And, naturally, I highly recommend it.

Grade: A

Be patient, it warms up3
The story opens by exploring the life of a Oscar, a promising young Dominican child growing up in New Jersey who morphs into an overweight, unpopular way-out-there nerd who is desperate to lose his virginity. The story goes on to explore the lives of Oscar, Oscar’s mother (orphaned, faced class & race discrimination, unrequited love, assault), sister (angst to leave Mother’s persistent negativism and see the world) and Mother’s family (persecuted by Dictator). The first half of the book was challenging to read as the author uses footnotes and many Spanish language phrases that are not translated (and frustratingly so…and perhaps herein lies the not-so subliminal message to me that I need to learn Spanish). These language challenges, coupled with the weaving back and forth from the present to the past and between multiple characters made the storyline challenging to follow and impacted my enjoyment of the story. That being said, I appreciated author’s integration of the political, social and economic history of the Dominican Republic and how the environment shaped many of the lives of the generations who migrated to the U.S. Hang in there as the book warms up at p. 150 and beyond where the main characters develop very nicely.

Wao as in WOW!5
Dude can write. In fact, this book is one of the most original that I’ve come across in a long time.

Like the layers of an onion, Diaz peels back the layers of years to reveal the back history of Oscar and his sister Lola. And what a history it is! The Banana Curtain is unveiled and the horrors of Trujillo — the raging narcissist and despoiler of women — are unflinchingly revealed, creating shudders of revulsion and flashes of understanding in this reader.

Junot Diaz creates a language and a tempo unlike any I’ve read before, peppered with Spanish colloquialisms, street talk, and video game terminology. Somehow, though, it works — and works beautifully — even if you don’t know an “hola” from an “adios” or have never played a video game in your life (like this reader.)

I will not soon forget Oscar Wao, the 300+ pound romantic, Lola, Yunior, or his mother and the Gangster and his ill-fated grandparents. The book is compulsively readable. For all of those who say that “the novel is dead”, I say: read Junot Diaz. Review
Amazon Best of the Month, September 2007: It’s been 11 years since Junot Díaz’s critically acclaimed story collection, Drown, landed on bookshelves and from page one of his debut novel, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, any worries of a sophomore jinx disappear. The titular Oscar is a 300-pound-plus “lovesick ghetto nerd” with zero game (except for Dungeons & Dragons) who cranks out pages of fantasy fiction with the hopes of becoming a Dominican J.R.R. Tolkien. The book is also the story of a multi-generational family curse that courses through the book, leaving troubles and tragedy in its wake. This was the most dynamic, entertaining, and achingly heartfelt novel I’ve read in a long time. My head is still buzzing with the memory of dozens of killer passages that I dog-eared throughout the book. The rope-a-dope narrative is funny, hip, tragic, soulful, and bursting with desire. Make some room for Oscar Wao on your bookshelf–you won’t be disappointed. –Brad Thomas Parsons

From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. What a bargain to have Diaz’s short story collection, Drown, included (on the last five CDs) with the talented, emerging Dominican-American writer’s first novel. Davis reads both superbly. He captures not only the fat, virginal, impractical Oscar, but he also gives a sexy vigor to Yunior, who serves as narrator and Oscar’s polar opposite. Davis also gives voice to Oscar’s mother, Beli, whose fukú curse infects the entire family, except for Oscar’s sister, Lola, performed in a flat voice by Snell, whose performance overlooks Lola’s energy and resolve. Both Snell and Davis move easily from English to Spanish/Spanglish and back again, as easily as the characters emigrate from the Dominican Republic to Paterson, N.J., only to be drawn back inexorably to their native island. Listeners unfamiliar with Spanish may have difficulty following some of the dialogue. However, it’s better to lose a few sentences than to miss Davis’s riveting performance, perfect pace and rich voice, which are perfectly suited to Díaz’s brilliant work.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From The Washington Post
Reviewed by Jabari Asim

Nowadays, there may be Hmong in Madison and Somalis in St. Paul, but some of us still have trouble keeping up with all the intense cultural mixing and melting going on amid our purple-mountained majesty. For example, mention the Dominicans among us to the average Tom, Dick or Andy Rooney, and he’s liable to speak of a mythical Shortstop Island from which wing-footed infielders plot their takeover of America’s pastime. As for the Dominican Republic’s history, imports, exports, that sort of thing? Well, its national baseball team is one of the best in the world, right? Or is that Venezuela?

Junot Díaz has the cure for such woeful myopia. The Dominican Republic he portrays in The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao is a wild, beautiful, dangerous and contradictory place, both hopelessly impoverished and impossibly rich. Not so different, perhaps, from anyone else’s ancestral homeland, but Díaz’s weirdly wonderful novel illustrates the island’s uniquely powerful hold on Dominicans wherever they may wander — a borderless anxiety zone that James Baldwin would describe as “the anguished diaspora.”

Thus, that nation’s bloody history, often detailed in Díaz’s irreverent footnotes, intrudes periodically in Oscar Wao, as if to remind Dominicans that tragedy is never far from one’s doorstep. Or maybe it emerges simply to instruct the rest of us, because Díaz’s characters are already painfully certain that they are destined for misfortune. Or, more precisely, cursed.

Fukú americanus, Díaz explains, is “generally a curse or a doom of some kind; specifically the Curse and the Doom of the New World.” It seems especially contagious and deadly in the Dominican Republic, where “it is believed that the arrival of Europeans on Hispaniola unleashed the fukú on the world.” How exotic. How ominous-sounding. How very similar to the pet profanity of New Yorkers from Staten Island to the Bronx. But the tale begins in Santo Domingo, where “a story is not a story unless it casts a supernatural shadow.” It revolves around several generations of one Dominican family, of which young Oscar de León, a depressed, overweight substitute teacher, is among the youngest descendants. The clan’s patriarch, a brilliant doctor named Abelard Luis Cabral, came down with an ultimately fatal case of fukú back in 1946, having run afoul of the malady’s high priest.

That would be Rafael Leónidas Trujillo Molina, the tyrannical sadist who bedeviled his fellow Dominicans for more than three blood-drenched decades. Naturally, his terror-mongering casts a large, threatening shadow over much of the novel’s action.

Abelard’s fukú apparently becomes part of his family’s DNA, traveling through time and blood cells to infect his grandson. (”Oscar Wao” is how one of the tormentors of his college years charmingly mutilated “Oscar Wilde,” a derisive nickname young de Leon accepted without protest). In no rush to spill the details of his hero’s short, star-crossed adventures, Díaz maneuvers his plot through various time shifts, settings and narrators. From Santo Domingo to Washington Heights, N.Y., to Paterson, N.J., various generations of de Leons wrestle with fate and lose. Along the way, Díaz liberally sprinkles his pages with allusions to authors, books and especially stories from the science-fiction and fantasy genres to which Oscar is devoted. So don’t be surprised when a discussion of Caesar and Ovid morphs into the Fantastic Four versus Galactus, and Mario Vargas Llosa gets short shrift compared to Jack Kirby, the late, lamented genius of Marvel Comics’s glory years.

Adding to our reading pleasure, Díaz excels at making fun of despots. At the mercy of the author’s machete-sharp wit, Trujillo becomes the Failed Cattle Thief, the Dictatingest Dictator who ever Dictated, the man who was Mobutu before Mobutu was Mobutu. Of Joaquín Balaguer, Trujillo’s successor, he writes, “Like most homunculi he did not marry and left no heirs.” And it’s hard to resist his clever nickname for François “Papa Doc” Duvalier, the madman whose pillaging made a wreck of Haiti: P. Daddy. Clearly a believer that membership has its privileges, Díaz makes cracks about Dominicans that the average Andy Rooney could never get away with. Reflecting on the ebony skin that keeps bubbling up in the de Leon bloodline, Díaz writes, “That’s the kind of culture I belong to: people took their child’s black complexion as an ill omen.” Another character observes, “That’s white people for you. They lose a cat and it’s an all-points bulletin, but we Dominicans, we lose a daughter and we might not even cancel our appointment at the salon.” There’s also the distressing but all-too-credible spectacle of so many dark-skinned Dominicans spitting the word “nigger” more often than Timbaland at a freestyle battle or Harriett Beecher Stowe at her abolitionist best. “No one, alas, more oppressive than the oppressed,” Díaz explains.

But enough about that. As Yunior (one of Díaz’s narrators and a welcome holdover from Drown, his acclaimed story collection) reminds us, “This is supposed to be a true account of the Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao.”

Obese and socially awkward, Oscar is obsessed with food, girls, role-playing games, girls, anime, girls — you get the picture. Trouble is, female companions remain tantalizingly beyond his grasp, as do all other kinds of companions, who eventually abandon him to his habitual depression. Oscar couldn’t find a pal on the Island of Lost Toys. “You really want to know what being an X-Man feels like? Just be a smart bookish boy of color in a contemporary U.S. ghetto,” Díaz writes. “Mamma mia! Like having bat wings or a pair of tentacles growing out of your chest.” Does Oscar ever overcome his ungainliness and find romance or a sense of belonging? The brevity of his tale prevents me from telling you much. Although I found the big guy totally sympathetic, he’s often way too stubborn for his own good. In addition, it’s not his fault that nearly every other character holds our interest just as easily — more of a reflection of Díaz’s broad palette than Oscar’s lack of dimension. But Oscar clearly is not intended to function as a hero in the classical sense. Is he meant primarily to symbolize the tangled significance of desire, exile and homecoming? Or is he a 307-lb. warning that only slim guys get the girls? Are we to wring from his ample flesh more of that anguished diaspora stuff? Could be, but I find sufficient meaning in the sheer joy of absorbing Díaz’s sentences, each rolled out with all the nerdy, wordy flair of an audacious imagination and a vocabulary to match. It’s easy to imagine Díaz smiling as he uncorked a description of a woman with “breasts like sunsets trapped beneath her skin” or writing of Trujillo, “Homeboy dominated Santo Domingo like it was his very own private Mordor.”

Díaz pulls it off with the same kind of eggheaded urban eloquence found in the work of Paul Beatty (The White Boy Shuffle), Victor LaValle (Slapboxing with Jesus), Mat Johnson (Drop) and his very own Drown. Geek swagger, baby. Get used to it. Notwithstanding his neological dazzle, he’s anything but longwinded. And he’s patient — maddeningly so. Díaz made us wait 11 years for this first novel and boom! — it’s over just like that. It’s not a bad gambit, to always leave your audience wanting more. So brief and wondrous, this life of Oscar. Wow.

Copyright 2007, The Washington Post. All Rights Reserved.