The Mind Wobbles

So many things to absorb, think about, deal with and put up with - it simply makes the mind wobble...

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Book Review - "The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao" - Junot Diaz

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao was a challenging read for me, as is all magical realism. It took me a while to get the rhythm of the book, and to get comfortable with the writing style – no quotation marks for dialogue, copious footnotes explaining political and pop culture references, significant use of Spanglish, etc. But about half way through the book it finally clicked for me and subsequently – I really liked it.

It’s a complicated story that constantly flips through time and between narrators. It tells the story of Oscar Wao’s family on his mother’s side. We learn about the family curse or “fukú” and the suffering it causes through generations. A large part of the book focuses on his mother and grandfather as well as the politics of the Dominican Republic.

I didn’t have difficulty with the non-translated Spanish throughout the book, but I’m surprised that the general English-speaking public and critic community has embraced the book, even awarding it the 2007 Pulitzer Prize in literature. I’m also surprised that the pop culture references and the very necessary and lengthy footnotes didn’t turn people off. The footnotes were a god-send to me who will stop reading and Google references with which I’m not familiar.

The book almost reads like a fable for adults, full of symbolism and in its own way full of beautiful prose.

I definitely recommend the book, with the caveat that there’s a lot of non-translated Spanish and a lot of footnotes – sometimes half a page long!

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