Poetry Madness




The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz

We're All Fukú'd

A review by Allison Glock

Junot Díaz isn't messing around.

Yunior -- the narrator of The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao -- he is messing around. With women, with drugs, with his future, something both uncertain and fated.

Through Yunior we learn of Oscar Wao's exquisitely damned immigrant family. We also learn of the so-called fukú curse they can't escape. It's a curse of your people, of love, of New Jersey. The curse that brought down longtime Dominican dictator Trujillo and JFK alike. And the curse that brings down Oscar -- a nerdy fatboy, disparaged and done for by age seven, the one Dominican teenager in all New Jersey who can't lose his virginity.

Like his shattering 1996 debut collection, Drown, Díaz's first novel is dense and thick, teeming with observations stacked tight like staples. From Santo Domingo to Paterson, New Jersey, from cane fields to college, Díaz mashes up history and modernity as we follow the doomed fate of Oscar's family. Magical realism and animal guides find a home...

Previously Reviewed by Esquire
Sort: by date | by title | by author

It Never Rains in Tiger Stadium: Football and the Game of Life by John Ed Bradley

John Ed Bradley has written a love poem to football, to his coach (Charlie Mac), to his daddy, to the LSU Tigers, to his teammates, to the idea of being a member of a team, to grabbing your coach with one of those teammates and carrying him aloft from the field, to going to seed in the years after. ...

Tree of Smoke: A Novel by Denis Johnson

When it comes to the past, give it to me distant and pale. Herodotus, for instance. You can't really argue with the guy. City-states, swinging militarily from one end of the Aegean to the other, shapes of cultural movements described dryly and without dense moral hand-wringing. I like that stuff...

Coltrane: The Story of a Sound by Ben Ratliff

Saxophone nerd, heroin junkie, psychedelic warrior, holy man, mild-mannered suburban dad -- John Coltrane didn't just reinvent what we think of as jazz, he constantly reinvented himself in the process. And so in Coltrane: The Story of a Sound, by Ben Ratliff, we see Coltrane bursting with talent...

The Conquest of Nature: Water, Landscape, and the Making of Modern Germany by David Blackbourn

It takes a rare writer to make a history of hydrology readable, let alone compulsively so. It takes a rare historian to convincingly argue that a nation's great water projects help define and shape its character. David Blackbourn is both. And his new book, The Conquest of Nature, proves it...

Crooked Little Vein: A Novel by Warren Ellis

Reading Crooked Little Vein, the first prose novel by renowned graphic novelist Warren Ellis, is like being hit by a truck -- a dark, perverted truck, that, if it's anything like the one described in the book, is full of blind men humping their seeing-eye dogs before being rear-ended by a Miata...

Last One In (P.S.) by Nicholas Kulish

It makes sense that Nicholas Kulish would write a pretty good novel about an embedded journalist in Iraq. When he worked for the Wall Street Journal, he was one. Recently named the New York Times Berlin bureau chief, Kulish focuses his book, Last One In, on a gossip columnist whose paper forces...

On Chesil Beach: A Novel by Ian McEwan

The scene: England in the pre-swingin' 1960s. A young couple on their wedding night. They're virgins. He's about to explode. She's terrified. And we're along for the weird dance that ensues in Ian McEwan's new novel, On Chesil Beach. It's a bit voyeuristic. Borderline pervy. And if McEwan wasn't ...

The Headmaster Ritual by Taylor Antrim

Don't let the cover fool you: The Headmaster Ritual by Taylor Antrim is not meant for a young adult audience. Yes, the story is set at an elite New England prep school. But instead of joining key club or debating the best coxswain for this year's crew team, these kids fight and hook up and debate...

Out Stealing Horses: A Novel by Per Petterson

You don't put down Norwegian Per Petterson's new novel, Out Stealing Horses. Well, sometimes you do, because you have to, like when you're heading to the bathroom or to a sale at The Container Store. But you don't really, at least not in your head, because Petterson's prose sticks with you. Which...

Mere Anarchy by Woody Allen

True story: It was sophomore year, in the cafeteria at Ross S. Sterling High School in Baytown, Texas. It was Tuesday, I remember that. I had a beat-up copy of Getting Even, by Woody Allen, that I'd been flashing around, trying to impress a girl named Priscilla, who was sitting across from me...

Before: A Novel by Irini Spanidou

After Dark by Haruki Murakami

The Witch of Portobello by Paulo Coelho

Five Skies: A Novel by Ron Carlson

Are We Rome?: The Fall of an Empire and the Fate of America by Cullen Murphy

A Thousand Splendid Suns: A Novel by Khaled Hosseini

The Virgin's Guide to Mexico: A Novel by Eric B. Martin

Falling Man: A Novel by Don DeLillo

Remainder (Vintage Originals) by Tom McCarthy

Rant: An Oral Biography of Buster Casey by Chuck Palahniuk

God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything by Christopher Hitchens

The Ministry of Special Cases: A Novel by Nathan Englander

The Savage Detectives by Roberto Bolano

Yes, Yes, Cherries: Stories by Mary Otis

Home Remedies (Harvest Original) by Angela Pneuman

You Don't Love Me Yet Signed 1st Edition by Jonathan Lethem

The Killing Jar: A Novel by Nicola Monaghan

The Strangler by William Landay

Lost Echoes (Vintage Crime/Black Lizard) by Joe R. Lansdale

Poor People by William T. Vollmann

The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears: A Novel by Dinaw Mengestu

Love Is a Mix Tape: Life and Loss, One Song at a Time by Rob Sheffield

The Unbinding: A Novel by Walter Kirn

Voices from the Street by Philip K. Dick

Surveillance: A Novel by Jonathan Raban

River of No Reprieve: Descending Siberia's Waterway of Exile, Death, and Destiny by Jeffrey Tayler

Finn: A Novel by Jon Clinch

House of Meetings by Martin Amis

The Enemy at Home: The Cultural Left and Its Responsibility for 9/11 by Dinesh D'Souza

Pirates of the Caribbean: Axis of Hope by Tariq Ali

Instant Replay: The Green Bay Diary of Jerry Kramer by Jerry Kramer and Dick Schaap

James Madison and the Struggle for the Bill of Rights (Pivotal Moments in American History) by Richard Labunski

Rust and Bone: Stories by Craig Davidson

The Lay of the Land 1st Edition by Richard Ford

Thanksgiving Night: A Novel by Richard Bausch

Blood and Thunder: An Epic of the American West by Hampton Sides

The Mission Song by John le Carre

The Interpretation of Murder by Jed Rubenfeld

Thirteen Moons: A Novel by Charles Frazier

Liberation Movements by Olen Steinhauer

Memorial: A Novel by Bruce Wagner

The Discomfort Zone: A Personal History by Jonathan Franzen

Instant Replay: The Green Bay Diary of Jerry Kramer by Jerry Kramer and Dick Schaap

The Dissident: A Novel by Nell Freudenberger

The Mystery Guest: An Account by Gregoire Bouillier

The Devil's Feather: A Novel by Minette Walters

The Bedroom Secrets of the Master Chefs Signed Edition by Irvine Welsh

The Road by Cormac McCarthy

Gallatin Canyon: Stories by Thomas McGuane

The Ruins: A Novel by Scott Smith

Talk Talk by T. C. Boyle

The Cottagers: A Novel by Marshall N. Klimasewiski

Strangers' Gate by Tom Casey

A Disorder Peculiar to the Country: A Novel by Ken Kalfus

Now You See It...: Stories from Cokesville, Pa by Bathsheba Monk

Terrorist: A Novel by John Updike

Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time: A Memoir by David Goodwillie

Theft: A Love Story by Peter Carey

The Closers (Harry Bosch) by Michael Connelly

Kingdom Coming: The Rise of Christian Nationalism by Michelle Goldberg

Conned: How Millions Went to Prison, Lost the Vote, and Helped Send George W. Bush to the White House by Sasha Abramsky

In Persuasion Nation: Stories by George Saunders

Everyman by Philip Roth

The Housekeeper by Melanie Wallace

1973 Nervous Breakdown: Watergate, Warhol, and the Birth of Post-Sixties America by Andreas Killen

Ticknor by Sheila Heti

Apex Hides the Hurt: A Novel by Colson Whitehead

Borkmann's Point: An Inspector Van Veeteren Mystery by Hakan Nesser

Pike's Folly by Mike Heppner

The Boy Who Fell Out of the Sky: A True Story by Ken Dornstein

The Best People in the World: A Novel by Justin Tussing

Eat the Document by Dana Spiotta

The Brief History of the Dead: A Novel by Kevin Brockmeier

Things in the Night by Mati Unt

State of War: The Secret History of the CIA and the Bush Administration by James Risen

Self-Made Man: One Woman's Journey Into Manhood and Back Again by Norah Vincent

The Stars Above Veracruz by Barry Gifford

The Ice Soldier: A Novel by Paul Watkins

Kornwolf (06 Edition) by Tristan Egolf

The Amalgamation Polka by Stephen Wright

The Gutter and the Grave (Hard Case Crime) by Ed McBain

The Tender Bar: A Memoir by J. R. Moehringer

The Coldest Winter: A Stringer in Liberated Europe by Paula Fox

Cold Skin by Alber Sanchez Pinol

The Mysterious Secret of the Valuable Treasure: Stories by Jack Pendarvis

Baseball Prospectus 2005: Statistics, Analysis, and Insight for the Information Age by The Baseball Prospectus Team of Experts

Liberation by Joanna Scott

Comrades in Miami (Havana World) by Jose Latour

Veronica: A Novel by Mary Gaitskill

A Primitive Heart: Stories by David Rabe

The Brief and Frightening Reign of Phil by George Saunders

Memories of My Melancholy Whores: A Novel by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion

Slow Man by J M Coetzee

Her Majesty's Spymaster: Elizabeth I, Sir Francis Walsingham, and the Birth of Modern Espionage by Stephen Budiansky

Willful Creatures: Stories by Aimee Bender

Indecision by Benjamin Kunkel

The Last True Story I'll Ever Tell: An Accidental Soldier's Account of the War in Iraq by John F. Crawford

A Field Guide to Getting Lost by Rebecca Solnit

Lunar Park by Bret Easton Ellis

Novel by George Singleton

American Gothic: A Life of America's Most Famous Painting by Steven Biel

Envy: A Novel by Kathryn Harrison

Crusader's Cross: A Dave Robicheaux Novel (Dave Robicheaux Mysteries) by James Lee Burke

My Friend Leonard by James Frey

36 Yalta Boulevard by Olen Steinhauer

No Country for Old Men 1st Edition by Cormac McCarthy

Canaan's Tongue by John Wray

True Story: Murder, Memoir, Mea Culpa by Michael Finkel

The Closers (Harry Bosch) by Michael Connelly

Oh the Glory of It All by Sean Wilsey

All Yesterdays' Parties: The Velvet Underground in Print, 1966-1971 by Clinton Heylin

Haunted: A Novel by Chuck Palahniuk

Glad News of the Natural World by T R Pearson

The Optimists by Andrew Miller

Ladies and Gentlemen, the Bronx Is Burning: 1977, Baseball, Politics, and the Battle for the Soul of a City by Jonathan Mahler

A Great Improvisation: Franklin, France, and the Birth of America by Stacy Schiff

Like a Rolling Stone: Bob Dylan at the Crossroads by Greil Marcus

The Harmony Silk Factory by Tash Aw

Winslow in Love by Kevin Canty

Small Crimes in an Age of Abundance by Matthew Kneale

Johnny Too Bad: Stories by John Dufresne

Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life by Amy Krouse Rosenthal

Home Land by Sam Lipsyte

Articles of War by Nick Arvin

The Chrysanthemum Palace: A Novel by Bruce Wagner

The Geographer's Library by Jon Fasman

Hello to All That: A Memoir of War, Zoloft, and Peace by John Falk

Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking by Malcolm Gladwell

Seven Types of Ambiguity by Elliot Perlman

American Purgatorio by John Haskell

Fatelessness by Imre Kertesz

The Vagabonds: A Novel by Nicholas Delbanco

Case Histories: A Novel by Kate Atkinson

The Year Is '42 by Nella Bielski

Gilead: A Novel by Marilynne Robinson

Television by Jean-Philippe Toussaint

Ballad of the Whiskey Robber: A True Story of Bank Heists, Ice Hockey, Transylvanian Pelt Smuggling, Moonlighting Detectives, and Broken Hearts by Julian Rubinstein

The Freedom: Shadows and Hallucinations in Occupied Iraq by Christian Parenti

The Pacific and Other Stories by Mark Helprin

Looking Forward to It: Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the American Electoral Process by Stephen Elliott

Whirlwind by Michael Grant Jaffe

Cary Grant: A Biography by Marc Eliot

The Making of Henry by Howard Jacobson

Villages by John Updike

Dick: The Man Who Is President by John Nichols

Will in the World: How Shakespeare Became Shakespeare by Stephen Greenblatt

Heir to the Glimmering World by Cynthia Ozick

Harbor by Lorraine Adams

Saints at the River by Ron Rash

Strange but True by John Searles

Dark Light: Electricity and Anxiety from the Telegraph to the X-Ray by Linda Simon

The Irresponsible Self: On Laughter and the Novel by James Wood

The Egyptologist by Arthur Phillips

The Summer Guest by Justin Cronin

The Encyclopedia of Heavy Metal by Daniel Bukszpan

The Preservationist by David Maine

Stranger than Fiction 1st Edition by Chuck Palahniuk

Nemesis: The True Story of Aristotle Onassis, Jackie O, and the Love Triangle That Brought Down the Kennedys by Peter Evans

The Wisdom of Crowds: Why the Many Are Smarter Than the Few and How Collective Wisdom Shapes Business, Economies, Societies and Nations by James Surowiecki

Status Anxiety by Alain de Botton

The Lemon Table by Julian Barnes

Here Kitty Kitty: A Novel by Jardine Libaire

Natasha: And Other Stories by David Bezmozgis

Kings of Infinite Space: A Novel by James Hynes

The Perfect Mile: Three Athletes, One Goal, and Less Than Four Minutes to Achieve It by Neal Bascomb

Working Fire: The Making of an Accidental Fireman by Zac Unger

Collected Poems by Philip Larkin

The Epicure's Lament by Kate Christensen

The Confessions of Max Tivoli by Andrew Sean Greer

Some Great Thing by Colin McAdam

Faithful by Davitt Sigerson

A Simple Twist of Fate: Bob Dylan and the Making of Blood on the Tracks by Kevin Odegard and Andy Gill

Little Children by Tom Perrotta

Bobby Fischer Goes to War: How the Soviets Lost the Most Extraordinary Chess Match of All Time by David Edmonds and John Eidinow

1968: The Year That Rocked the World by Mark Kurlansky

When I Was Cool: My Life at the Jack Kerouac School by Sam Kashner

Hollywood Animal: A Memoir by Joe Eszterhas

Aloft by Chang Rae Lee

Absolute Friends by John le Carré

Down and Dirty Pictures: Miramax, Sundance, and the Rise of Independent Film by Peter Biskind

American Sucker by David Denby

Walking into the Night by Olaf Olafsson

Project X by Jim Shepard

Living to Tell the Tale by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

I Sailed with Magellan by Stuart Dybek

Old School by Tobias Wolff

Guston in Time: Remembering Philip Guston by Ross Feld

In the Land of Magic Soldiers: A Story of White and Black in West Africa by Daniel Bergner

Genesis by Jim Crace

Goya by Robert Hughes

Yellow Dog by Martin Amis

Higher: A Historic Race to the Sky and the Making of a City by Neal Bascomb

Elizabeth Costello by J. M. Coetzee

Where I Was From by Joan Didion

Train Signed 1st Edition by Pete Dexter

The Great Fire by Shirley Hazzard

The Fortress of Solitude by Jonathan Lethem

A Hundred Little Hitlers: The Death of a Black Man, the Trial of a White Racist, and the Rise of the Neo-Nazi Movement in America by Elinor Langer

My Cold War by Tom Piazza

War Against the Weak: Eugenics and America's Campaign to Create a Master Race by Edwin Black

Young Men on Fire by Howard Hunt

Personality by Andrew O'Hagan

The King Is Dead by Jim Lewis

The Effect of Living Backwards by Heidi Julavits

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon

The Only Good Thing Anyone Has Ever Done by Sandra Newman

On the Rez by Ian Frazier

The Book Against God by James Wood

In Praise of Nepotism: A Natural History by Adam Bellow

Bad News of the Heart (Canadian Literature Series) by Douglas H. Glover

Getting Mother's Body by Suzan-Lori Parks

Hamlet: Poem Unlimited by Harold Bloom

Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game by Michael Lewis

The Clinton Wars by Sidney Blumenthal

We Pierce by Andrew Huebner

Signal & Noise by John Griesemer

This Must Be the Place: The Adventures of Talking Heads in the Twentieth Century by David Bowman

Positively Fifth Street: Murderers, Cheetahs, and Binion's World Series of Poker by James McManus

What I Loved by Siri Hustvedt

Bay of Souls by Robert Stone

The Diary of Adam and Eve: and Other Adamic Stories (Hesperus Press) by Mark Twain

Reefer Madness: Sex, Drugs, and Cheap Labor in the American Black Market by Eric Schlosser

Wonder When You'll Miss Me by Amanda Davis

Pigs at the Trough: How Corporate Greed and Political Corruption Are Undermining America by Arianna Huffington

A Box of Matches by Nicholson Baker

In the Land of Pain by Alphonse Daudet

Jarhead Signed 1st Edition by Anthony Swofford

Ridiculous!: The Theatrical Life and Times of Charles Ludlam by David Kaufman

Yoga for People Who Can't Be Bothered to Do It by Geoff Dyer

The Dante Club by Matthew Pearl

The Commissariat of Enlightenment by Ken Kalfus

The Skeptic: A Life of H.L. Mencken by Terry Teachout

The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair That Changed America by Erik Larson

Officer Friendly and Other Stories by Lewis Robinson

Dancer by Colum McCann

White Christmas: The Story of an American Song by Jody Rosen

Vanished Splendors a Memoir by Balthus

Dead Cities and Other Tales by Mike Davis

Jenny and the Jaws of Life: Short Stories by Jincy Willett

Prey (02 Edition) by Michael Crichton

JFK, Nixon, Oliver Stone and Me: An Idealist's Journey from Capitol Hill to Hollywood Hell by Eric Hamburg

Journals by Kurt Cobain

The Measure of All Things: The Seven-Year Odyssey and Hidden Error That Transformed the World by Ken Alder

The Little Friend by Donna Tartt

Tourmaline by Joanna Scott

From a Buick 8 by Stephen King

Blue Latitudes: Boldly Going Where Captain Cook Has Gone Before by Tony Horwitz

Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides

Nowhere Man by Aleksandar Hemon

Bernard of Hollywood Ultimate Pin-Up Book by Susan Bernard

Red Rabbit by Tom Clancy

The Stories of Breece D'J Pancake by Breece D'j Pancake

Moth Smoke : a Novel (00 Edition) by Mohsin Hamid

Running with Scissors: A Memoir by Augusten Burroughs

The Hermit's Story by Rick Bass

The Cell: Inside the 9/11 Plot, And Why the FBI and CIA Failed to Stop It by John Miller and Michael Stone and Chris Mitchell

Prague by Arthur Phillips

The Art of Travel by Alain de Botton

The Stepford Wives by Ira Levin

The Russian Debutante's Handbook by Gary Shteyngart

The Emperor of Ocean Park by Stephen L. Carter

Big If by Mark Costello

The Cadence of Grass by Thomas Mcguane

Laughing Gas (36 Edition) by P.g. Wodehouse

Enough about You: Adventures in Autobiography by David Shields

Man Walks Into a Room by Nicole Krauss

Hamlet's Dresser: A Memoir by Bob Smith

My Mentor: A Young Man's Friendship with William Maxwell by Alec Wilkinson

Gould's Book of Fish: A Novel in Twelve Fish by Richard Flanagan

The Black Veil by Rick Moody

The Fish's Eye: Essays about Angling and the Outdoors by Ian Frazier

West of Kabul, East of New York: An Afghan American Story by Tamim Ansary

The Best American Mystery Stories of the Century by Tony (edt) Hillerman

Emporium: Stories by Adam Johnson

Laughing Gas (36 Edition) by P.g. Wodehouse

The Impressionist by Hari Kunzru

Kosmos: A Portrait of the Russian Space Age by Adam Bartos

Back to the Miracle Factory: Rock Etc. 1990s by Paul Williams

Violence, Nudity, Adult Content 1st Edition by Vince Passaro

Lincoln's Virtues: An Ethical Biography by William Lee Miller

The Summons by John Grisham

I'll Let You Go by Bruce Wagner

Searching for Hassan: An American Family's Journey Home to Iran by Terence Ward

Selected Essays of John Berger by John Berger

Polar by T R Pearson

More, Now, Again: A Memoir of Addiction by Elizabeth Wurtzel

Blonde by Joyce Carol Oates

Nutcracker 1st Edition by E T A Hoffmann

People Life After Dark by Roxanne Lowit

A Cook's Tour by Anthony Bourdain

Merry Christmas! (00 Edition) by Karal Ann Marling

The Complete Works of Isaac Babel by Isaac Babel

Holy War, Inc.: Inside the Secret World of Osama Bin Laden by Peter L. Bergen

President Nixon: Alone in the White House by Richard Reeves

The War Against Cliché by Martin Amis

Carter Beats the Devil by Glen David Gold

With Love and Squalor: 14 Writers Respond to the Work of J.D. Salinger by Kip Kotzen

The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen

Austerlitz by W. G. Sebald

Germs: Biological Weapons and America's Secret War by Judith Miller

The Bridegroom by Ha Jin

The Subject Steve by Sam Lipsyte

The Devil's Cloth: A History of Stripes and Striped Fabric by Michel Pastoureau

Lightning Field by Dana Spiotta

The Map That Changed the World by Simon Winchester

Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All-American Meal by Eric Schlosser

No One Thinks of Greenland by John Griesemer

Call If You Need Me: The Uncollected Fiction and Other Prose by Raymond Carver

The Secret Paris of the '30s by Brassai

J.R.R. Tolkien: Author of the Century by T. A. Shippey

Looking Good: Male Body Image in Modern America by Lynne Luciano

Widower's House: A Study in Bereavement or How Margot and Mella Forced Me to Flee My Home by John Bayley

The Botany of Desire: A Plant's-Eye View of the World by Michael Pollan

Yonder Stands Your Orphan (01 Edition) by Barry Hannah

The Body Artist by Don DeLillo

John Adams by David McCullough

My Little Blue Dress by Bruno Maddox

Cute, Quaint, Hungry and Romantic : the Aesthetics of Consumerism (00 Edition) by Daniel Harris

'57, Chicago by Steve Monroe

The Torturer's Apprentice: Stories by John Biguenet

Facing the Wind: A True Story of Tragedy and Reconciliation by Julie Salamon

Click here to subscribeSubscribe to Esquire and Save 75%

Get 12 fantastic issues of Esquire magazine for only $8. The best culture, entertainment, style, financial advice, women and more delivered right to your door every month ? at an incredible 81% savings off the newsstand price! What could be better... or easier?

Click here to subscribe now! spacer

  • back to top


Powell's City of Books is an independent bookstore in Portland, Oregon, that fills a whole city block with more than a million new, used, and out of print books. Shop those shelves — plus literally millions more books, DVDs, and gifts — here at Powells.com.