The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

Book - 2007
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Overweight and nerdy Oscar lives with his Dominican American mother and sister in New Jersey and dreams of becoming a renowned author and finding true love, but unfortunately a family curse stands in the way of his wishes.
Publisher: New York : Riverhead Books, 2007
ISBN: 9781594489587
Branch Call Number: PS3554.I259 B75 2007
Characteristics: 339 p. ; 22 cm


From Library Staff

With dazzling energy and insight, Junot Díaz immerses us in the uproarious lives of our hero Oscar, his runaway sister Lola, and their ferocious beauty-queen mother Belicia, and in the epic journey from Santo Domingo to Washington Heights to New Jersey's Bergenline and back again. Rendered with u... Read More »

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Jul 15, 2020

I had to read this book for an English class in college. Upon being first introduced to this title, my professor explained that science-fiction/fantasy fans may like this book because it talks about things in Lord of the Rings, Stars Wars, Star Trek, etc. While that statement is strictly correct, the book mentions and references these things, but is not actually about anything like these things. Defenders of this book are probably reading this and telling their computer screens at this point in my review, "Well, yeah. It's not truly a science-fiction/fantasy book, so it's not about those things." Fair enough, but I mention this point to introduce the strange tonal clash that arises from a modern, contemporary lit title trying to make a point of these references. Ultimately, they came across to me as trying too hard to be quirky and fairly shallow. Suffice it to say, a footnote explaining what a Nazgul is didn't leave me very impressed.

The actual story revolves around two characters, Oscar and his friend, an attractive, easy-going author self-insert character, and their quest to get Oscar laid. Oscar is an unfit, geeky young man and doesn't have a lot of success with the ladies, contrasting with the author's self-insert. The author's character reinforces the idea in Oscar that his life will be complete and all his problems will get better as soon as he can successfully have sex. So, Oscar, following the author's advice, makes this his primary motivation. The only reason that this title wasn't a one star for me was because I see some value in telling a story about this sort of young man, as it is a sympathetic perspective for many boys out there.

However, the end significantly lessened anything I may have liked about this book. I must be careful not to write outright spoilers, but I will allude to it with two statements. Oscar's life is literally described as "brief" in the very title of the book. Also, presumably, a character's overriding motivations contribute to and lead him to his fate. Overall, I don't think the author wrote with a great deal of compassion for the aforementioned perspective of a lonely young man, leaving the end far from triumphant or satisfying in my opinion.

Jun 07, 2020

Bold and breathless. The middle third paled for me, but it finished well.

May 25, 2020


Mar 26, 2020

Díaz is a problematic fav of mine. A lot like Murakami, I can never tell if he's being deconstructive or if he actually is a little bit sexist. Maybe a little of both. That aside, his prose is insane. Even if this book didn't have a gripping story and fascinating characters- which it does- it would still be worth a read for the narration alone. I don't know how else to describe it other than it being simply SO FUN to read his sentences. I highly recommend this book.

Jun 19, 2019

Masterfully crafted, this story takes us into the folds of a complicated family. We finish the novel with a greater understanding of each family member as well as what it was like for some of them to straddle two cultures at once. I love Junot Diaz and this book earned its Pulitzer.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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Nov 25, 2019

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Sep 01, 2012

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Feb 10, 2011

Sexual Content: This title contains Sexual Content.

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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