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'...
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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.
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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.
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pinkdiamonds97007, May 4, 2008 (view all comments by pinkdiamonds97007)
This book is sweet, trhuthful, interesting, heartbreaking, and grasps a part of life that is often hard to face. It makes you think, it makes you laugh, and it lets you hope, even in the event of a disaster. A very touching book.
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Julia Callahan, April 19, 2008 (view all comments by Julia Callahan)
Oscar is maybe the last true romantic left on the planet. He is a fierce lover of women, though his major problem lies in them loving him back, and he is a writer of Science Fiction, which may contribute to his solid role as the friend and confidante. But for Oscar Wao and his brief life, there is light at the end of the tunnel, and he may be the last person willing to give it all up for love. A wonderful and moving book about not fitting in, and finally having something to live and die for.
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"Publishers Weekly Review"
by Publishers Weekly,
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.)
by Kirkus Reviews (starred review),
"A rich, impassioned vision of the Dominican Republic and its diaspora, filtered through the destiny of a single family.... DÃaz's reverse family saga, crossed with withering political satire, makes for a compelling, sex-fueled, 21st-century tragi-comedy with a magical twist."
by Entertainment Weekly,
"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-)"
"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."
by Walter Mosley,
"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."
by Cathleen Medwick, O: The Oprah Magazine,
"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."
by Lev Grossman, Critical Mass,
"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."
by Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times,
"[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."
by USA Today,
"[W]ill burn its way into your heart and sizzle your senses."
by Christian Science Monitor,
"[A] colorful and complex portrait of mad love, old-world superstition, and the continual strivings of a diaspora."
by Cleveland Plain Dealer,
"DÃaz 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."
by Los Angeles Times,
"[A] hell of a book."
by Dallas Morning News,
"[O]ne of the best first novels of the past few decades."
The long-awaited — and thrillingly satisfying, genuinely original — first novel from the unmistakable voice behind the story collection Drown.
The long-awaited--and thrillingly satisfying, genuinely original--first novel from the unmistakable voice behind the story collection "Drown."
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.”
The long-awaited-and thrillingly satisfying, genuinely original- first novel from the unmistakable voice behind the story collection Drown.
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