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The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

by

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao Cover

 

Awards

2008 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction
2007 National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction

The Rooster 2008 Morning News Tournament of Books Winner

The Rooster 2008 Morning News Tournament of Books Nominee

Synopses & Reviews

Please note that used books may not include additional media (study guides, CDs, DVDs, solutions manuals, etc.) as described in the publisher comments.

Publisher Comments:

This is the long-awaited first novel from one of the most original and memorable writers working today.

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 Fuk — 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.

Diaz immerses us in the tumultuous life of Oscar and the history of the family at large, rendering with genuine warmth and dazzling energy, humor, and insight the Dominican-American experience, and, ultimately, the endless human capacity to persevere in the face of heartbreak and loss. A true literary triumph, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao confirms Junot Diaz as one of the best and most exciting voices of our time.

Review:

Signature Review by Matthew Sharpe "A reader might at first be surprised by how many chapters of a book entitled The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao are devoted not to its sci fi — and — fantasy-gobbling nerd-hero but to his sister, his mother and his grandfather. However, Junot Diaz's dark and exuberant first novel makes a compelling case for the multiperspectival view of a life, wherein an individual cannot be known or understood in isolation from the history of his family and his nation.Oscar being a first-generation Dominican-American, the nation in question is really two nations. And Dominicans in this novel being explicitly of mixed Tano, African and Spanish descent, the very ideas of nationhood and nationality are thoughtfully, subtly complicated. The various nationalities and generations are subtended by the recurring motif of fuk, 'the Curse and Doom of the New World,' whose 'midwife and... victim' was a historical personage Diaz will only call the Admiral, in deference to the belief that uttering his name brings bad luck (hint: he arrived in the New World in 1492 and his initials are CC). By the prologue's end, it's clear that this story of one poor guy's cursed life will also be the story of how 500 years of historical and familial bad luck shape the destiny of its fat, sad, smart, lovable and short-lived protagonist. The book's pervasive sense of doom is offset by a rich and playful prose that embodies its theme of multiple nations, cultures and languages, often shifting in a single sentence from English to Spanish, from Victorian formality to 'Negropolitan' vernacular, from Homeric epithet to dirty bilingual insult. Even the presumed reader shape-shifts in the estimation of its in-your-face narrator, who addresses us variously as 'folks,' 'you folks,' 'conspiracy-minded-fools,' 'Negro,' 'Nigger' and 'plataneros.' So while Diaz assumes in his reader the same considerable degree of multicultural erudition he himself possesses — offering no gloss on his many un-italicized Spanish words and expressions (thus beautifully dramatizing how linguistic borders, like national ones, are porous), or on his plethora of genre and canonical literary allusions — he does helpfully footnote aspects of Dominican history, especially those concerning the bloody 30-year reign of President Rafael Lenidas Trujillo. The later Oscar chapters lack the linguistic brio of the others, and there are exposition-clogged passages that read like summaries of a longer narrative, but mostly this fierce, funny, tragic book is just what a reader would have hoped for in a novel by Junot Diaz." Matthew Sharpe is the author of the novels Jamestown and The Sleeping Father. He teaches at Wesleyan University. Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)

Review:

"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... Washington Post Book Review (read the entire Washington Post review)

Review:

"A rich, impassioned vision of the Dominican Republic and its diaspora, filtered through the destiny of a single family.... Díaz's reverse family saga, crossed with withering political satire, makes for a compelling, sex-fueled, 21st-century tragi-comedy with a magical twist." Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

Review:

"It's been 11 years since Junot Di­az published his acclaimed story collection, Drown, and he has spent the time well, honing the sharp, slangy voice that propels his terrific first novel....A joy to read, and every bit as exhilerating to reread. (Grade: A-)" Entertainment Weekly

Review:

"Writing in a combustible mix of slang and lyricism, Diaz loops back and forth in time and place, generating sly and lascivious humor in counterpoint to tyranny and sorrow." Booklist

Review:

"The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao is a book that speaks in tongues. This long-awaited novel by Junot Diaz is a masterpiece about our New World, its myths, curses, and bewitching women. Set in America's navel, New Jersey, and haunted by the vision of Trujillo's brutal reign over the Dominican Republic, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao is radiant with the hard lives of those who leave and also those who stay behind — it is a rousing hymn about the struggle to defy bone-cracking history with ordinary, and extraordinary, love." Walter Mosley

Review:

"Told in blinkingly kinetic prose, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, Junot Diaz's dazzling debut novel, fulfills the promise of this writer's short story collection (Drown) and fully reveals a powerful presence in moden American fiction." Cathleen Medwick, O: The Oprah Magazine

Review:

"A book so astoundingly great that in a fall crowded with heavyweights — Richard Russo, Philip Roth, Nick Hornby, Tom Perotta — Diaz is a good bet to run away with the field." Lev Grossman, Critical Mass

Review:

"[A] wondrous, not-so-brief first novel that is so original it can only be described as Mario Vargas Llosa meets 'Star Trek' meets David Foster Wallace meets Kanye West. It is funny, street-smart and keenly observed.... [Diaz has] written a book that decisively establishes him as one of contemporary fiction's most distinctive and irresistible new voices." Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times

Review:

"[W]ill burn its way into your heart and sizzle your senses." USA Today

Review:

"[A] colorful and complex portrait of mad love, old-world superstition, and the continual strivings of a diaspora." Christian Science Monitor

Review:

"Díaz writes invigorating and evocative prose, and his sentences sizzle even as he mixes phrases of Spanish, New Jersey slang and references to Oscar's beloved science fiction." Cleveland Plain Dealer

Review:

"[A] hell of a book." Los Angeles Times

Review:

"[O]ne of the best first novels of the past few decades." Dallas Morning News

Synopsis:

The long-awaited — and thrillingly satisfying, genuinely original — first novel from the unmistakable voice behind the story collection Drown.

Synopsis:

The long-awaited--and thrillingly satisfying, genuinely original--first novel from the unmistakable voice behind the story collection "Drown."

Synopsis:

Pulitzer Prize-winner Junot Díaz’s first book, Drown, established him as a major new writer with “the dispassionate eye of a journalist and the tongue of a poet” (Newsweek). His first novel, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, was named #1 Fiction Book of the Year” by Time magazine and spent more than 100 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list, establishing itself – with more than a million copies in print – as a modern classic. In addition to the Pulitzer, Díaz has won a host of major awards and prizes, including the National Book Critic’s Circle Award, the PEN/Malamud Award, the PEN/O. Henry Prize, the Dayton Literary Peace Prize, and the Anisfield-Wolf Award.
 
Now Díaz turns his remarkable talent to the haunting, impossible power of love – obsessive love, illicit love, fading love, maternal love. On a beach in the Dominican Republic, a doomed relationship flounders. In the heat of a hospital laundry room in New Jersey, a woman does her lover’s washing and thinks about his wife. In Boston, a man buys his love child, his only son, a first baseball bat and glove. At the heart of these stories is the irrepressible, irresistible Yunior, a young hardhead whose longing for love is equaled only by his recklessness--and by the extraordinary women he loves and loses: artistic Alma; the aging Miss Lora; Magdalena, who thinks all Dominican men are cheaters; and the love of his life, whose heartbreak ultimately becomes his own. In prose that is endlessly energetic, inventive, tender, and funny, the stories in the New York Times-Bestselling This Is How You Lose Her lay bare the infinite longing and inevitable weakness of the human heart. They remind us that passion always triumphs over experience, and that “the half-life of love is forever.”

Synopsis:

The long-awaited-and thrillingly satisfying, genuinely original- first novel from the unmistakable voice behind the story collection Drown.

About the Author

Junot Diaz's fiction has appeared in The New Yorker, The Paris Review, and The Best American Short Stories. His debut story collection, Drown, was a publishing sensation of unprecedented acclaim, became a national bestseller, won numerous awards, and is now a landmark of contemporary literature. He was born and raised in the Dominican Republic, and now lives in New York City and Boston, where he teaches at MIT.

What Our Readers Are Saying

Add a comment for a chance to win!
Average customer rating based on 9 comments:

ctrtess, January 30, 2010 (view all comments by ctrtess)
I found the book riveting, yet uncomfortable at times. The language was stronger than I usually read, and it was a bit more graphic than suits me. I learned a lot about the Dominicas, and a very fascinating era in their history. The author brought the charcters to life in such a way that I felt their pain, while learning of the source of their angst. I found his writing style interesting, and yes, fun. At the end of the day, when I closed the book for the last time, I felt that reading it had been well worth any discomfort that I had felt. Not to give anything away, but Diaz does a marvelous job of 'wrapping it up'...
Was this comment helpful? | Yes | No
(11 of 16 readers found this comment helpful)
Shoshana, August 8, 2008 (view all comments by Shoshana)
This ambitious first novel treats multiple themes of bridging identities, including Dominican/American cultures, Spanish/English languages, fiction and nonfiction writing conventions, individuals and families, personal and cultural history, and Latin American Magical Realism and science fiction. The voice of Oscar is only one of several telling this story. The resultant pastiche is lively and engaging, playful and yet deeply serious. This was not an easy book to read with outside distractions, but I kept feeling as though I should be reading it on a bus with conversations all around me.
Was this comment helpful? | Yes | No
(28 of 57 readers found this comment helpful)
lsumner, July 3, 2008 (view all comments by lsumner)
Because I am not bilingual this book was difficult for me to read. Thankfully, I like a challenge. It would be awesome practice for anyone trying to learn Spanish. At times the author lost me as he switched between the perspectives of different characters, but each character was well thought out and their depth was enlightening. The format of the dialogue was strange. I felt like I had to read very carefully and take my time to get the full meaning of the text, which is an unusual change of pace for someone who is usually a speed reader.
Was this comment helpful? | Yes | No
(38 of 58 readers found this comment helpful)
View all 9 comments

Product Details

ISBN:
9781594489587
Author:
Diaz, Junot
Publisher:
Riverhead Trade
Author:
Daz, Junot
Author:
az, Junot
Author:
D
Subject:
Literary
Subject:
Dominican Americans
Subject:
Literature-A to Z
Subject:
Stories (single author)
Edition Description:
Trade paper
Publication Date:
20080902
Binding:
Hardback
Grade Level:
8
Language:
English
Pages:
352
Dimensions:
8 x 5.13 in 1 lb
Age Level:
14

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Related Subjects

Featured Titles » Morning News Tournament » Tournament of Books 2008
Featured Titles » Pulitzer Prize Winners
Fiction and Poetry » Literature » A to Z

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao Used Hardcover
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$13.00 In Stock
Product details 352 pages Riverhead Hardcover - English 9781594489587 Reviews:
"Publishers Weekly Review" by , Signature Review by Matthew Sharpe "A reader might at first be surprised by how many chapters of a book entitled The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao are devoted not to its sci fi — and — fantasy-gobbling nerd-hero but to his sister, his mother and his grandfather. However, Junot Diaz's dark and exuberant first novel makes a compelling case for the multiperspectival view of a life, wherein an individual cannot be known or understood in isolation from the history of his family and his nation.Oscar being a first-generation Dominican-American, the nation in question is really two nations. And Dominicans in this novel being explicitly of mixed Tano, African and Spanish descent, the very ideas of nationhood and nationality are thoughtfully, subtly complicated. The various nationalities and generations are subtended by the recurring motif of fuk, 'the Curse and Doom of the New World,' whose 'midwife and... victim' was a historical personage Diaz will only call the Admiral, in deference to the belief that uttering his name brings bad luck (hint: he arrived in the New World in 1492 and his initials are CC). By the prologue's end, it's clear that this story of one poor guy's cursed life will also be the story of how 500 years of historical and familial bad luck shape the destiny of its fat, sad, smart, lovable and short-lived protagonist. The book's pervasive sense of doom is offset by a rich and playful prose that embodies its theme of multiple nations, cultures and languages, often shifting in a single sentence from English to Spanish, from Victorian formality to 'Negropolitan' vernacular, from Homeric epithet to dirty bilingual insult. Even the presumed reader shape-shifts in the estimation of its in-your-face narrator, who addresses us variously as 'folks,' 'you folks,' 'conspiracy-minded-fools,' 'Negro,' 'Nigger' and 'plataneros.' So while Diaz assumes in his reader the same considerable degree of multicultural erudition he himself possesses — offering no gloss on his many un-italicized Spanish words and expressions (thus beautifully dramatizing how linguistic borders, like national ones, are porous), or on his plethora of genre and canonical literary allusions — he does helpfully footnote aspects of Dominican history, especially those concerning the bloody 30-year reign of President Rafael Lenidas Trujillo. The later Oscar chapters lack the linguistic brio of the others, and there are exposition-clogged passages that read like summaries of a longer narrative, but mostly this fierce, funny, tragic book is just what a reader would have hoped for in a novel by Junot Diaz." Matthew Sharpe is the author of the novels Jamestown and The Sleeping Father. He teaches at Wesleyan University. Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Review" by , "A rich, impassioned vision of the Dominican Republic and its diaspora, filtered through the destiny of a single family.... Díaz's reverse family saga, crossed with withering political satire, makes for a compelling, sex-fueled, 21st-century tragi-comedy with a magical twist."
"Review" by , "It's been 11 years since Junot Di­az published his acclaimed story collection, Drown, and he has spent the time well, honing the sharp, slangy voice that propels his terrific first novel....A joy to read, and every bit as exhilerating to reread. (Grade: A-)"
"Review" by , "Writing in a combustible mix of slang and lyricism, Diaz loops back and forth in time and place, generating sly and lascivious humor in counterpoint to tyranny and sorrow."
"Review" by , "The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao is a book that speaks in tongues. This long-awaited novel by Junot Diaz is a masterpiece about our New World, its myths, curses, and bewitching women. Set in America's navel, New Jersey, and haunted by the vision of Trujillo's brutal reign over the Dominican Republic, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao is radiant with the hard lives of those who leave and also those who stay behind — it is a rousing hymn about the struggle to defy bone-cracking history with ordinary, and extraordinary, love."
"Review" by , "Told in blinkingly kinetic prose, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, Junot Diaz's dazzling debut novel, fulfills the promise of this writer's short story collection (Drown) and fully reveals a powerful presence in moden American fiction."
"Review" by , "A book so astoundingly great that in a fall crowded with heavyweights — Richard Russo, Philip Roth, Nick Hornby, Tom Perotta — Diaz is a good bet to run away with the field."
"Review" by , "[A] wondrous, not-so-brief first novel that is so original it can only be described as Mario Vargas Llosa meets 'Star Trek' meets David Foster Wallace meets Kanye West. It is funny, street-smart and keenly observed.... [Diaz has] written a book that decisively establishes him as one of contemporary fiction's most distinctive and irresistible new voices."
"Review" by , "[W]ill burn its way into your heart and sizzle your senses."
"Review" by , "[A] colorful and complex portrait of mad love, old-world superstition, and the continual strivings of a diaspora."
"Review" by , "Díaz writes invigorating and evocative prose, and his sentences sizzle even as he mixes phrases of Spanish, New Jersey slang and references to Oscar's beloved science fiction."
"Review" by , "[A] hell of a book."
"Review" by , "[O]ne of the best first novels of the past few decades."
"Synopsis" by , The long-awaited — and thrillingly satisfying, genuinely original — first novel from the unmistakable voice behind the story collection Drown.
"Synopsis" by , The long-awaited--and thrillingly satisfying, genuinely original--first novel from the unmistakable voice behind the story collection "Drown."
"Synopsis" by ,
Pulitzer Prize-winner Junot Díaz’s first book, Drown, established him as a major new writer with “the dispassionate eye of a journalist and the tongue of a poet” (Newsweek). His first novel, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, was named #1 Fiction Book of the Year” by Time magazine and spent more than 100 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list, establishing itself – with more than a million copies in print – as a modern classic. In addition to the Pulitzer, Díaz has won a host of major awards and prizes, including the National Book Critic’s Circle Award, the PEN/Malamud Award, the PEN/O. Henry Prize, the Dayton Literary Peace Prize, and the Anisfield-Wolf Award.
 
Now Díaz turns his remarkable talent to the haunting, impossible power of love – obsessive love, illicit love, fading love, maternal love. On a beach in the Dominican Republic, a doomed relationship flounders. In the heat of a hospital laundry room in New Jersey, a woman does her lover’s washing and thinks about his wife. In Boston, a man buys his love child, his only son, a first baseball bat and glove. At the heart of these stories is the irrepressible, irresistible Yunior, a young hardhead whose longing for love is equaled only by his recklessness--and by the extraordinary women he loves and loses: artistic Alma; the aging Miss Lora; Magdalena, who thinks all Dominican men are cheaters; and the love of his life, whose heartbreak ultimately becomes his own. In prose that is endlessly energetic, inventive, tender, and funny, the stories in the New York Times-Bestselling This Is How You Lose Her lay bare the infinite longing and inevitable weakness of the human heart. They remind us that passion always triumphs over experience, and that “the half-life of love is forever.”
"Synopsis" by ,

The long-awaited-and thrillingly satisfying, genuinely original- first novel from the unmistakable voice behind the story collection Drown.

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