Friday, 24 August 2012

Book Review: The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

Genre:  Literature & Fiction
Author: Junot Diaz
Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

I admit to a bit of race confusion. When I was growing up people of a certain colour were 'Negroes.' Later they were 'Blacks' and then 'African-Americans.' Or perhaps they were 'African-Americans' first and then became 'Blacks'. I am not sure. There was an an entire period of American racial history I obviously didn't keep up on.

The one thing I am sure of was that Negroes or Blacks or African-Americans were never, ever Niggers. That was a word that was simply not heard where I grew up. It was a word that was so ugly, so beyond the pale, that I in fact never heard it until the civil rights clashes in the 60's.

Now perhaps back in the days when Huck Finn talked about 'Nigger Jim' the word wasn't as ugly as it since became (I like Mark Twain and am trying to give him a bit of a pass here) but my entire childhood, youth, and adulthood it has been an ugly word that is just not used. Ever. So, frankly, when I hear two brothers using it towards each other I still cringe. I still think it is ugly. I still think it is wrong and nothing can make it right no matter how it is used or no matter who uses it.

But, I suppose that is just me and if the use of the pejorative 'Nigger' by Blacks towards Blacks is the only criticism I can make towards Junot Diaz' Pulitzer Prize winning novel, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao it is a small criticism. This book is a delight to read.

The Boston Globe wrote "Graceful and raw and painful and smart ... His prose is sensible poetry that moves like an interesting conversation ... The pages turn and all of a sudden you're done and you want more.

This is a riveting, compelling, story rich in character and detail and deserving of the awards it has won.

Brad Thomas Parsons' review on Amazon says, " 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.
(Originally posted to Multiply on October 12, 2008)

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