The Brief Wondrous Life Of Oscar Wao
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The Brief Wondrous Life Of Oscar Wao

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3.84 of 5 stars 3.84  ·  rating details  ·  122,453 ratings  ·  12,848 reviews

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

Audio CD, 13 pages
Published September 6th 2007 by Penguin Audio (first published January 9th 2001)
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Cameron
How this book won the Pulitzer Prize AND the National Book Critics Circle is beyond me. It's terrible. Here's the review I wrote when it came out. I stand by this completely. If someone says they read this and liked it, punch them in the throat. (I'm kidding, naturally.)

Review of Junot Diaz’s first novel, “The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao,” published Oct. 7, 2007
Imagine, if you will, that seven years after publishing "The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber," Ernest Hemingway decided to ex...more
sckenda
--“There is a seed of courage hidden (often deeply, it is true) in the heart of the fattest and most timid Hobbit, waiting for some final and desperate danger to make it grow.” (LOTR: The Fellowship of the Ring, 1954, p.140)

--“Men need many words before deeds.” (LOTR: The Two Towers, p. 523)

--So much Death! What can men do against such reckless hate? Ride out with me. Ride out and meet them. For death and glory? For Rohan. For your people. Yes. Yes. The horn of Helm Hammerhand shall sound in th...more
Malbadeen
I want to know all about your family, your childhood, your grandparents, their childhood, etc, etc, I want to know where you lived, what food you ate, what games you played or didn't play. I want to know why this is important to you or that is not. Which is why I LOVED this book! Junot Diaz takes 300+ pages to tell a story about a boy that wants to be kissed and the kiss MATTERS because we know his family, we know his friends, we know their superstitions and their pains, and their loses and thei...more
The Crimson Fucker
Ok, I’m writing a review of this book right now or I’ma die trying goddamn it!
1 HOUR LATER

I got nothing! I’ve deleted like 20 paragraphs!

1 HOUR LATER!!! 2 bruises in my forehead, kind of dizzy, I’ve cursed the gods of knowledge for being born without literary talent!! And 0 review!


Oh god!!! I give up!!! This is all I got!!! This book is awesome!!! Is a nerdy dude being nerdy as hell and not getting pussy!! Even tho he desperately wants it!! he watches Akira which I think is kind of cool! he wa...more
Andy
I bought Oscar Wao as a birthday gift for my mother in October based on scores of sterling reviews. She read it, gave it a mild thumbs-up (probably just being nice) and handed it off to me. Now having read it, I'm pretty mortified I thought this book would be something she might like.

The critical consensus seemed to be that Junot Diaz is a good writer, and he picked a good story to tell here in his first novel. But I found this book lacking on both counts. I found the writing lazy and unexpress...more
Dan
Soon after I started reading this book, I also started reading Housekeeping vs. The Dirt by Nick Hornby. In it's preface, Hornby discusses why reading has fallen by the wayside as of late. A lot of people associate reading with boredom because to most, it feels like a chore to get through novels. If people would just read what they enjoyed, then they would begin again to see the pleasures of reading and thus, do more of it (he even makes a point that someone who reads only The Economist and the...more
David Abrams
Meet Oscar de Leon, dubbed "Oscar Wao" by bullies who liken him to the foppish Oscar Wilde. Our Oscar is a fat, virginal Dominican-American teenager who carries a Planet of the Apes lunchbox to school, spends hours painting his Dungeons & Dragons miniatures, and who knows "more about the Marvel Universe than Stan Lee." If Nerd was a country, Oscar would be its undisputed king. Oscar is the kind of kid—sweaty, mumbles to himself, inevitably invades personal space, probably has bad breath—we w...more
Cassy
Honestly, if someone had warned me that this book would barrage me, page after page, line after line, clause after clause, with obscure dorky references, Dominican Republican history lessons, and Spanish colloquialisms, I may not have picked it up.*

But I am glad I did.

It is comforting to realize that on the scale of nerd-dom, I fall on the light end. I could follow the shout-outs to science fiction authors, as well as the Lord of the Rings allusions (of which there were many). But I was lost fo...more
Dolors
Jul 02, 2014 Dolors rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Lovers of footnotes and silenced history
Shelves: read-in-2014
“How do you pick up the threads of an old life? How do you go on, when in your heart, you begin to understand, there is no going back? There are some things that time cannot mend. Some hurts that go too deep...that have taken hold.” J.R.R. Tolkien.

Oscar Wao is a wonder of nature. A nerd. Weirdo. Freak. This is the story of an outcast and his travails. A free spirit who speaks in sci-fi gibberish and aspires to become the Dominican J.R.R.Tolkien. His isolation is as massive as his 307 pounds and...more
Jason
Sep 18, 2008 Jason rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Dominicans, Americans, Dominican-Americans
Recommended to Jason by: Susan Clearfield
A lot of people seem to either hate or love this book. Most people get irritated with misleading title, the hard-to-follow narration/storyline, but mostly with the eclectic use of spanglish that is scattered throughout the book and with no footnote, i might add!!!

In an interview, Junot Diaz said that he offered up the Spanish without translation because he wanted to give English readers an idea of the immigrant experience. The spanish in this book reflects the immigrant experience. The alienati...more
Kim
TBWLOOW would have been a ‘good read’, I honestly believe that, but I don't know… something happened along the way.

Maybe it was the fact that I started this during the holidays, and that's not fair to any book, I'm the biggest wench from November 15th to January 15th. I should limit my reading to People magazine or maybe some old Three's Company scripts... I don't know, I haven't figured out the system just yet.

Maybe it was my utter lack of knowledge about the political turmoil that is the Domi...more
Patrick
Aug 26, 2008 Patrick rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: People who don't think they'd like the story of an immigrant family's journey to the states
Recommended to Patrick by: Kevin Waterman
Hype can really change the way you perceive a book. Although the buzz for 'The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao' has been steadily building since it was released almost a year ago, the book I picked up at the bookstore had a big, gold starburst attached to it reading 'WINNER - 2008 Pulitzer Prize', and had been brandished 'THE BEST BOOK I EVER READ' by no less authority than my friend Kevin right here on this very website.

It's almost not fair, the way we build up these books, or movies, or othe...more
Mariel
Aug 29, 2011 Mariel rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: I fell in love again
Recommended to Mariel by: footnote historians. Foot like Achilles
The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao spoke my language of self consciousness. The parts of yourself that you wish weren't there and cannot forget about. They could perch on your shoulder like not so polar opposites of shame and pride. Maybe not spoken fluently but we could get by and have a nice conversation about all the good stuff like families, books, musics, hopes and disappointments. I liked being talked to. It means a lot to me to be able to use my own heart and mind and feel something abo...more
Crystal Starr Light
Bullet Review:

"WAHHHHHH! My life is so horrible!! I'm 100+ pounds overweight, have no friends, and have never gotten laid!! Especially to some fine b!tch with huge tits! The one time I "tried", the girl was in an abusive relationship with a d-bag. I was TOTALLY the Nice Guy; she should have gone with ME!!! Now I will whine and do nerdy things, and occasionally mention them so that the cover blurb saying I'm the Dominican Tolkien won't be 100% inaccurate."

If this is what you want to read, go ahea...more
Annalisa
These are the reasons I'm abandoning this book:

1. It's crude. And it's not just the overuse of the f word I'm over. The sex and violence is crude too. There's love that's personal and emotional and touches something deep down inside. And then there's banal sex that devalues human connection and emotion, the kind of thing someone who was desensitized to real relationships in preference of porn would write. This is the later. Even inexperienced Oscar's interest in women is banal and of no depth.

2....more
Roy
This book is a true wonder and treasure, the very definition of a 5 star read. I'm placing it in the exhalted position of one of my 3 favorite books of all time, sitting alongside The World According to Garp and Love in the Time of Cholera. It is a magnificent chronicle of a Dominican-American family and the fuku that haunts them throughout generations, with its main focus on poor Oscar, a heavyset nerd personified in eternal search for love, preferably the variety that is accompanied by sex. Th...more
Tatiana
Not sure what was so wondrous about Oscar's life.
David
I enjoyed this book a lot, and think it deserves the good reviews it's received. I just hadn't expected it to be quite as *sad* as it was. Somehow, it wasn't the more obviously depressing aspects (e.g. the persecution and torture that were routinely practiced under the Trujillo dictatorship in the Dominican Republic) that got to me so much as the smaller stuff. The continued failure of the various members of Oscar's family to connect, the accumulated hostility between generations, as well as the...more
Joselito Honestly and Brilliantly
This is almost like (Llosa's) The Feast of the Goat: The Sequel. The central character Oscar and his sister are descendants of victims of the cruel three-plus decades of the Trujillo dictatorship (their grandparents, directly; their mother, indirectly). They do not remember the past. In fact, they do not know the past. But the past apparently has not forgotten them. They carry its curse, "fuku," and when Oscar falls in love, he only gets a brief taste of happiness by paying for it with his life....more
Gus Sanchez
I knew kids like Oscar Wao. In fact, I was Oscar Wao, an overweight, extremely nerdy kid whose lifelong ambition was to simply be cool. And so much of what Oscar Wao endures - and, more often not, through his own hand - is hilariously and uncomfortably familiar to me.

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao is a genius work from Junot Diaz, who emerged a decade ago in a blaze of glory after the publication of his debut collection of short stories, Drown. That rare voice that speaks of the culture c...more
Michael
There was a lot about this novel that I liked, and a lot that I disliked. I know from other reviews that what -I- got out of the book was quite different than what other people got out of it.

The biggest feeling I had was anger that our world does this to people (Oscar, that is). It shames me. Call me a dreamer if you wish, but I think that if we treated our fellow man better, and didn't ridicule him or her for no good purpose, all of us would be better for it. Maybe more kids would escape the gr...more
zan
I might be controversial by giving this book only 3 stars, but it didn't click with me the way I expected it to based on the universal "Wao" it got from everyone else. All those Mordor references felt forced, and I felt a bit attacked as a reader rather than invited. Anyone else want to join in my dissent?
Debbie
I am not finished yet, but I am really loving this book. What a voice, what lyrical, amazing language. He is truly gifted.

OK, I read it.

I cannot help but be influenced by our country's current talk about illegal immigrants, which has led to public discourse about immigrants in general. It is a talk that, to many, risks cold analysis, and for some, resentment, anger. So, given this backdrop, I personally cannot help but see this book as primarily an immigrant saga with several themes related to...more
Myfanwy
Oh boy, is The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao an interesting, challenging, illuminating book. At first, I wondered if I would be at a disadvantage as I do not get most of the allusions to comic books (though the Tolkien, etc, is not lost on me)--still knowing these things is not necessary to find what you need in this book. I also initially worried over the footnotes--would they be a chore? Would I end up skipping them? Nope and nope. From the beginning, I looked forward to them and what they...more
Abby
This book was kind of disappointing. It had a lot of pages. I'd have to go check to see how many for sure, but only about 83 of them were actually necessary for the story. The rest of it was just filler swear words and phrases in Spanish that I didn't understand. Oh yeah, also references to nerdy things that I've never heard of, like fantasy movies and famous sci fi books. (Because I of course, am the epitome of not-nerdy.)

The whole book swore and swore and swore like a swearing sailor, and then...more
Jason
I’ll reveal something today maybe no other reviewer will tell you about themselves. If they award many stars to The Brief Wonderous Life of Oscar Wao, then they’re nerds--we’re nerds. If not nerds, then we orbit darn close to center mass nerdiness, a satellite captured by a dense planetoid of sci-fi. And that’s alright, all you Clark Kents and Napoleon Dynamites.

I gave a 4th star to Junot Diaz’s Pulitzer Prize winner because he deftly and imaginatively incorporated a strong titration of cultural...more
Beth F.
If bad language and graphic (not hot) sexual descriptions throw you into a moral tizzy, don’t read this book, even though it did win the Pullitzer. But for people who can look past that and reach the conclusion that foul language and a course description of life doesn’t have to be gratuitous, read it. There’s an excellent chance this book will be unlike anything else you’ve ever read.

In one sentence, this book is about Oscar de Leon, an ultra nerd who can’t get laid but really, really wants to...more
Greg
May 16, 2008 Greg rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Karen, who says she won't read it
Shelves: fiction
If I had half stars this would be a four and a half star book. When I started the book I didn't have much hope for it, even though it won the Pulitzer and all of that I just didn't have any desire to read it. Why did I read it? Well that's a good question. I was at the college library earlier in the week looking to pick up a couple of books and I happened across this book shelved in the wrong place. I couldn't live with myself if I didn't correct this problem. The thought of it getting lost in t...more
Bart
Jul 24, 2008 Bart rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Readers willing to take the good with the not-so-good in pursuit of excellent American fiction
This book falls just shy of exceptional – which is not to write that it doesn’t have exceptional parts. It has plenty of exceptional parts, actually. Trouble is, very few of them concern the book’s protagonist and namesake; and despite being called The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao few of the book’s wondrous parts have anything to do with Oscar Wao.

This book won most of last year’s literary awards. That may or may not be overstating its worth. Ever since “The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao”...more
Gregory Baird
“I did all I could and it still wasn’t enough.”

“You really want to know what being an X-Man feels like? Just be a smart bookish boy of color in a contemporary U.S. ghetto. Mamma mia! Like having bat wings or a pair of tentacles growing out of your chest.”

Meet Oscar de León. Once upon a time, in elementary school, Oscar was a slick Dominican kid who seemed to have a typical life ahead of him. Then, around the time he hit puberty, Oscar gained a whole lot of weight, became awkward both physicall...more
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Junot Díaz is a contemporary Dominican-American writer. He moved to the USA with his parents at age six, settling in New Jersey. Central to Díaz's work is the duality of the immigrant experience. He is the first Dominican-born man to become a major author in the United States.

Díaz is creative writing professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He received the Pulitzer Prize for Fictio...more
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“It's never the changes we want that change everything.” 398 likes
“But if these years have taught me anything it is this: you can never run away. Not ever. The only way out is in.” 384 likes
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