The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

( 167 )

Overview

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 ...
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The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

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Overview

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 fukú – 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.

Winner of the 2008 National Book Critics Circle Award and the 2008 Pulitzer Prize, for Fiction

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
Ten years after his acclaimed short story collection Drowned, Junot Diaz returns with a lollapalooza of a debut novel centered on a grotesquely overweight Dominican-American teenager named Oscar. Lonely, loveless, and living almost completely inside his own head, Oscar is a "ghetto nerd" whose multiple obsessions include comic books, fantasy fiction, and supremely unobtainable women. In a story that moves back and forth between the Dominican Republic and Paterson, New Jersey, Diaz illuminates the tragic arc of Dominican history (especially under the brutal Trujillo regime) in the lives of Oscar's sister, mother, grandmother, and aunt. Shot through with witty cultural footnotes, scabrous slang, and touches of magic realism, this heartbreaking family saga is a work of brave originality.
Jabari Asim
…weirdly wonderful …Oscar clearly is not intended to function as a hero in the classical sense. Is he meant primarily to symbolize the tangled significance of desire, exile and homecoming? Or is he a 307-lb. warning that only slim guys get the girls? Are we to wring from his ample flesh more of that anguished diaspora stuff? Could be, but I find sufficient meaning in the sheer joy of absorbing Diaz's sentences, each rolled out with all the nerdy, wordy flair of an audacious imagination and a vocabulary to match…Diaz pulls it off with the same kind of eggheaded urban eloquence found in the work of Paul Beatty (The White Boy Shuffle), Victor LaValle (Slapboxing with Jesus), Mat Johnson (Drop) and his very own Drown. Geek swagger, baby. Get used to it.
—The Washington Post
Michiko Kakutani
Junot Diaz's Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao is 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, and it unfolds from a comic portrait of a second-generation Dominican geek into a harrowing meditation on public and private history and the burdens of familial history. An extraordinarily vibrant book that's fueled by adrenaline-powered prose, it's confidently steered through several decades of history by a madcap, magpie voice that's equally at home talking about Tolkien and Trujillo, anime movies and ancient Dominican curses, sexual shenanigans at Rutgers University and secret police raids in Santo Domingo…It is Mr. Diaz's achievement in this galvanic novel that he's fashioned both a big picture window that opens out on the sorrows of Dominican history, and a small, intimate window that reveals one family's life and loves. In doing so, he's written a book that decisively establishes him as one of contemporary fiction's most distinctive and irresistible new voices.
—The New York Times
A. O. Scott
In The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, Diaz, the author of a book of sexy, diamond-sharp stories called Drown, shows impressive high-low dexterity, flashing his geek credentials, his street wisdom and his literary learning with equal panache…Diaz's novel also has a wild, capacious spirit, making it feel much larger than it is. Within its relatively compact span, [it] contains an unruly multitude of styles and genres. The tale of Oscar's coming-of-age is in some ways the book's thinnest layer, a young-adult melodrama draped over a multigenerational immigrant family chronicle that dabbles in tropical magic realism, punk-rock feminism, hip-hop machismo, post-postmodern pyrotechnics and enough polymorphous multiculturalism to fill up an Introduction to Cultural Studies syllabus. Holding all this together—just barely, but in the end effectively—is a voice that is profane, lyrical, learned and tireless, a riot of accents and idioms coexisting within a single personality.
—The New York Times Book Review
Publishers Weekly

What a bargain to have Díaz's short story collection, Drown, included (on the last five CDs) with the talented, emerging Dominican-American writer's first novel. Davis reads both superbly. He captures not only the fat, virginal, impractical Oscar, but he also gives a sexy vigor to Yunior, who serves as narrator and Oscar's polar opposite. Davis also gives voice to Oscar's mother, Beli, whose fukúcurse infects the entire family, except for Oscar's sister, Lola, performed in a flat voice by Snell, whose performance overlooks Lola's energy and resolve. Both Snell and Davis move easily from English to Spanish/Spanglish and back again, as easily as the characters emigrate from the Dominican Republic to Paterson, N.J., only to be drawn back inexorably to their native island. Listeners unfamiliar with Spanish may have difficulty following some of the dialogue. However, it's better to lose a few sentences than to miss Davis's riveting performance, perfect pace and rich voice, which are perfectly suited to Díaz's brilliant work. Simultaneous release with the Riverhead hardcover (Reviews, June 18). (Sept.)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
School Library Journal

Díaz's remarkable debut novel tells the story of a lonely outsider with zest rather than pathos. Oscar grows up in a Dominican neighborhood in Paterson, NJ, as an overweight, homely lover of sf and fantasy. Reading such books and trying to emulate them in his own writing provide Oscar's only pleasure. What he really wants is love, but his romantic overtures are constantly rejected. The author balances Oscar's story with glances at the history of the Dominican Republic, focusing on the Rafael Trujillo dictatorship and its effect on Oscar's family. Díaz masterfully shifts between Oscar and his sister, mother, and grandfather to give this intimate character study an epic scale, showing that an individual life is the product of family history. Jonathan Davis's sensitive reading captures the romantic quest of the hero and the tragedy of life under Trujillo, and Staci Snell ably reads the alternating chapters dealing with Oscar's sister and mother. Also included is Drown, a collection of stories by Díaz. Highly recommended for all collections. [This book is a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award.-Ed.]
—Michael Adams

Kirkus Reviews
A rich, impassioned vision of the Dominican Republic and its diaspora, filtered through the destiny of a single family. After a noted debut volume of short stories (Drown, 1996), Diaz pens a first novel that bursts alive in an ironic, confiding, exuberant voice. Its wider focus is an indictment of the terrible Trujillo regime and its aftermath, but the approach is oblique, traced backwards via the children (Oscar and Lola) of a larger-than-life but ruined Dominican matriarch, Beli. In earthy, streetwise, Spanish-interlaced prose, Diaz links overweight, nerdy fantasist Oscar, his combative, majestic sister and their once Amazonian mother to the island of their ancestry. There, an aunt, La Inca, with strange, possibly supernatural powers, heals and saves Beli after her involvement with one of Trujillo's minor henchman, who was married to the dictator's sister. Beli, at age14, had naively hoped this affair would lead to marriage and family, but instead her pregnancy incurred a near-fatal beating, after which she fled to New Jersey to a life of drudgery, single parenting and illness. By placing sad, lovelorn, virginal Oscar at the book's heart, Diaz softens the horrors visited on his antecedents, which began when Trujillo cast his predatory eye on wealthy Abelard Cabral's beautiful daughter. Was the heap of catastrophes that ensued fuku (accursed fate), Diaz asks repeatedly, and can there be counterbalancing zafa (blessing)? The story comes full circle with Oscar's death in Santo Domingo's fateful cornfields, himself the victim of a post-Trujillo petty tyrant, but it's redeemed by the power of love. Despite a less sure-footed conclusion, Diaz's reverse family saga, crossedwithwitheringpolitical satire, makes for a compelling, sex-fueled, 21st-century tragi-comedy with a magical twist.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781606868201
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA)
  • Publication date: 2/29/2000
  • Pages: 335
  • Sales rank: 834,956
  • Product dimensions: 4.90 (w) x 7.90 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet 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.
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 167 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(65)

4 Star

(54)

3 Star

(29)

2 Star

(8)

1 Star

(11)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 168 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 20, 2013

    Well trained writer...

    The ending was terrible. Whatever the author had to say about life I didn't agree with.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 20, 2013

    This book was a little boring.  I loved the narrative and some o

    This book was a little boring.  I loved the narrative and some of the imagery.  But, I didn't think the plot was very interesting.  I found myself drifting often and rather disappointed.  It wasn't bad at all, but it wasn't one of my favorites. 

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted June 30, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    How many times can you say the N word?

    I found the language irritating and so disconnected. How many times can you say the N word? I if you like fiction that is so disconnected from reality this book for you.

    The pronunciation and spelling of the N word is very different in the hood.

    Google it!!!

    1 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 4, 2014

    Good story

    Had some difficulty with some of the slang, but it was a god read.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 12, 2014

    Gabriel

    Hail Mary...

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 17, 2013

    Love it

    Love this book
    i cant put it down

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 11, 2013

    Interesting

    An atypical plot. Good if you are in search of something different to read.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 27, 2013

    I absolutely loved this book! Diaz's writing style is different

    I absolutely loved this book! Diaz's writing style is different and may take some time getting used to, but the story is fantastic. I was more and more captivated the further I got into the book. I liked the tying together of the history of the Dominican Republic and the family's history. The story is so in-depth and detailed and is really very creative. It's definitely one of the best books I've read in a very long time.  

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 21, 2013

    Greay bk

    It was terrible

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 20, 2013

    Johnna

    My email is tammy roberts wic @ yahoo .com (no spaces) if you wanna be nook friends. I got to g see ya later.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 18, 2013

    Jkxlxn.mxnm


    Qgyrjfkjfgd kmgnxgf tegjrbxbgxn
    Ebkhkgdufkhdl

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 18, 2013

    Awesome

    This book will keep you reading until the end!

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 12, 2013

    Good reading

    Having read Drown by the same author, i have to say that this book is a page- turner. I like the fact that Diaz incorporates DomRep history into the book. His undertones to describe the atrocities committed during Trujillo -era were right on point. Oscar wao is the true nerd whose dominican flavor does not help him at all to try and befriend a girl . I truly liked this book better than drown.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 5, 2013

    Speechless

    This book left me in tears of various origins. It pulled me in and left me rotting when it was done. The history lesson in itself was worth it. The amazing story, spun like I've never seen before, was worth every second of my life.
    The Spanish. I was glad he didn't translate. It made me feel like I was truly diving into this world. It wasn't for me but I was invited. I'm a black American girl who knows not one bit of Spanish but I don't think I have ever felt so comfortable reading a book. So involved. It floored me.
    The women in this book...
    Everything was pure paradise. I will read this book over and over. Love and hope and fear for these characters every time. I am so happy to have such a writer exist in during my life.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 21, 2013

    Pooopiuyyjjjnnnnjkv ssddsz


    Hffjkytfbjjjjbhhgffnffdldddfmkn m

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 21, 2013

    painfully endearing

    A fantastic but somewhat heart wrenching read

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 5, 2013

    Gfddfgbhg

    Energy hog

    0 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 12, 2013

    Very Bad

    The novel was a bitter disapointment. It was difficult for me to follow frequently jumping around.

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 31, 2012

    Loved it

    I loved it! Read it twice:) the style of writing is extremely unique and i thoroughly enjoyed it!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 27, 2012

    Love it !!!

    I really enjoyed reading this book, it was diffrent and engaging.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 168 Customer Reviews

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