The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

Book - 2007
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Things have never been easy for Oscar, a sweet but disastrously overweight, lovesick Dominican ghetto nerd. From his home in New Jersey, where he lives with his old-world mother and rebellious sister, Oscar dreams of becoming the Dominican J.R.R. Tolkien and, most of all, of finding love. But he may never get what he wants, thanks to the Fukœ-the curse that has haunted the Oscar's family for generations, dooming them to prison, torture, tragic accidents, and, above all, ill-starred love. Oscar, still waiting for his first kiss, is just its most recent victim.
Publisher: New York : Riverhead Books, 2007
ISBN: 9781594489587
1594489580
9781594483295
Characteristics: 339 p. ; 22 cm

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Things have never been easy for Oscar, a sweet but disastrously overweight, lovesick Dominican ghetto nerd. Oscar dreams of becoming the Dominican J.R.R. Tolkien and, most of all, of finding love.

The Eighties


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RogerDeBlanck Jul 27, 2018

Staying rooted in his Dominican heritage, Junot Diaz's first novel, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, traces the source of an ancient Caribbean curse called the "fuku." The title character and his family are its final victims. Oscar is an overweight, science-fiction-loving geek who churns out book-length manuscripts in his spare time as an escape mechanism to overcome his tough luck at not finding a love interest. Narrated by Yunior, a former boyfriend of Oscar’s sister, the novel takes on a distinctively colloquial voice that is expertly delivered and heartbreakingly genuine. The narrative is unapologetic with its bombastic sexual exploits as Yunior's recollection of events takes the story on tangents from the projects in New Jersey back to the barrios in the Dominican Republic. Diaz is a master at developing and exploring characters. He tells of the curse’s influence on Belicia (Oscar’s mother), Lola (his sister), and La Inca (his grandmother). Finally, the story comes full circle and returns to witness the fuku’s impact on Oscar. This novel meditates with great insight into Dominican culture and the acculturation of first generation Dominicans in America, while also confronting the atrocities of the past. The overall wit and dark humor would be enough to carry this amazing novel through to its end. But Diaz's creativity bursts with passion off every page. Each of this sentences and metaphors are poetic treasures. This novel truly flexes Diaz's literary strength with his gift of language and voice. It is a memorable reading experience.

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Sam_Stewart
Apr 07, 2018

One of my favorite books of all time.

c
carsonstuart
Mar 24, 2018

Excellent novel with some Dominican Republic history thrown in for extra interest

Manateestarz Nov 25, 2017

It is possible to straddle two subcultures. It is also possible to love a fast paced,furiously written book with pages and pages of allusions.
I just loved this book even though I am not part of the geek fandom that is so important in this book.
Really well written and compelling.

s
Sarah1984
Aug 03, 2017

This isn't working for me. The footnotes are bothering me particularly. I barely know anything about the Dominican Republic and I feel like Diaz expects me to be well versed in their history and their notable historical figures, as well as other pop culture references that are as clear as mud to me. For example, on page five he mentions Darkseid's Omega Effect and Morgoth's Bane and while there is a footnote it made me even more confused, it starts out with

'"I am the Elder King: Melkor, first and mightiest of all the Valar, who was before the world and made it. The shadow of my purpose lies upon Arda, and all that is in it bends slowly and surely to my will."'

and continues on waffling like that for another few sentences. I have no idea if that's from a book, movie, video game or something else entirely and that means that whatever Diaz was trying to tell me by including that reference in the book has been completely lost on me, and however many other readers don't understand the quote.

Another source of constant confusion, and thus frustration, is the use of untranslated Spanish phrases. I don't speak Spanish, I read Spanish even less so if you want to use another language in a book written in English there needs to be a translation within the text or a dictionary at the back. Not being able to read whole lines of dialogue because I don't read the correct language can really alienate a reader (this one especially). These few lines on page 26 encompasses all my frustration

'Listen, palomo: you have to grab a muchacha, y meteselo. That will take care of everything. Start with a fea. Coje that fea y meteselo!'

What does any of that mean?! It's not like it's a single word that I can determine the meaning of through the context of the surrounding words. It's all incomprehensible to me and means that the surrounding scene makes that much less sense.

I'd gotten to the point that before having a look at some of the other reviews I was thinking of DNFing. Now that I've read those reviews and understand that my problems are not mine alone and that they won't magically disappear by the end of the chapter has encouraged me to stop thinking of DNFing and simply do it. Life's too short to read books I'm not enjoying (and highly unlikely to begin enjoying at any time within the 335 pages of the book), maybe if there was a big revelation and turnaround I could will myself to keep going, but the reviews don't mention anything of the sort, so I just can't do it.

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elizali
Jun 07, 2017

Junot Diaz is a phenomenal writer. He will make you feel something. This book is a perfect summer read and will stick with me for years to come.

m
mogie
Jan 29, 2017

I chose this book for book club as it seemed promising. I must apologize to my fellow members. This book received rave reviews. I struggled to get through it and it made me feel stupid. I didn't understand what was going on or where it was going. I couldn't relate to the characters at all and it seemed as if the primary characters were all just looking to get laid. I didn't find that they had any depth and were all stupid, frankly. I struggled to get through this book and skimmed the last 30 or so pages. I didn't find it vibrant, fast paced or particularly funny. A huge disappointment.

ArapahoeLesley Nov 16, 2016

Junot Diaz is hilarious, insightful, shockingly crass and real as can be. I am a fan.

Chapel_Hill_KrystalB Oct 31, 2016

I read This is How You Lose Her a few years back and liked it for sure but did not love it, which I thought peculiar since I had heard so, so many great things about Diaz's writing. When I told a friend this, he insisted that I read The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, the book he thought would really introduce me to the author. I am SO glad I did- I loved it through and through and through. I actually thought my love for it had reached maximum capacity in the beginning part of the book, when getting to know Oscar and Lola. Little did I know it would grow from there with the intersection of present and past. I may have just read my favorite book.

ArapahoeBethW Sep 09, 2016

This Pulitzer Prize winning novel is a refreshing and spicy piece of work. Oscar is not your typical hero, but the unsung hero of all ghetto nerds. His story is complex and wound tight, told through a multigenerational family saga, cultural and political history, and the powerful fuku (aka curse) that controls it all. Set in the U.S. and D.R. this book explores the complexities of living in two cultures at once (okay, I borrowed that line) with the added awkward coming of age. Fantastic!

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waltzingechidna
Jan 20, 2015

waltzingechidna thinks this title is suitable for 16 years and over

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anicepieceoffish
Sep 01, 2012

anicepieceoffish thinks this title is suitable for 20 years and over

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marishkajuko
Oct 04, 2011

marishkajuko thinks this title is suitable for 16 years and over

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rpawlick
Jul 26, 2011

rpawlick thinks this title is suitable for 18 years and over

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imaginethat
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imaginethat
Feb 10, 2011

Sexual Content: This title contains Sexual Content.

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imaginethat
Feb 10, 2011

Coarse Language: This title contains Coarse Language.

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portmanteau Jul 09, 2012

A first lesson in the fragility of love and the preternatural cowardice of men. And out of this disillusionment and turmoil sprang Beli's first adult oath, on that would follow her into adulthood, to the States and beyond. I will not serve. Never again would she follow any lead other than her own Not the rector's, not the nuns', not La Inca's, not her poor dead parents'. Only me, she whispered. Me.

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