Goofy, loopy, kinda fun but kinda boring too...not at the level of the works to come, but if you love DFW (as I do) it's sometime interesting as an a Goofy, loopy, kinda fun but kinda boring too...not at the level of the works to come, but if you love DFW (as I do) it's sometime interesting as an apprentice work because you can see him starting to work out stylistic points, jokes, tone, etc....more
So I tend to be a curmudgeon when it comes to Big Hot Books of the Year. I mean, I totally respect the value of big prizes like the Pulitzer and the So I tend to be a curmudgeon when it comes to Big Hot Books of the Year. I mean, I totally respect the value of big prizes like the Pulitzer and the NBA and all that (maybe even too much so) but when people start hyperventilating on how unbelievable and amazing and "best book I've EVER READ, EVER" some novel is, I tend to want to turn the other direction. Call it snobbery, elitism, book-weariness, what-you-will. Like, I've never read The Road and I'm sure it's good and everything (Blood Meridian, on the other hand, is the only other McCarthy I've read so far and it was fucking terrifying in its unrelenting power and beauty) but sometimes I feel compelled to scoff a bit when I hear some book getting raves all over the block. I usually just rely on the tastes of people I trust, either in person or on the page or here on good ol' GR, to help me make my decisions for what to delve into next.
Sometimes I wonder if having read a gazillion books makes you less enthusiastic about reading the hot new title, as if yesterday's classic wasn't the justifiable Big Sensation in its day and is now pitifully molding on a shelf somewhere, unloved and unread.
So I passed on Diaz's Wao for a long time. I'd skimmed through his first story collection back in college and liked what I saw but pooh-pooh'd this one while digging into more quaint and curious volumes of forgotten lore.
Recently, a friend causally wondered if I'd be interested in it and gave me his long-owned, unread copy. I took the leap and tried not to let my snobby side get in the way.
Well...spank my ass and call me baldy. This one's a gem, it really is: vibrant, richly energetic, multifaceted, relatable yet rich and strange, politically engaged and heartfelt.
It actually might be a good example of what they call "rotten English"- not, I repeat NOT, meaning unlettered or inarticulate or primitive, understand, but more using alternate discourses like slang, foreign vocabulary, cultural references, alternative social history and codes that amount to an interrogation of more formal syntax and linguistic structures. The constant injection of untranslated Spanish phrases and idioms don't distract from the text but lighten it, jazz it up, and insist on the realness of what is said. You can pretty much figure it out in context, anyway, if it bugs you.
Oscar Wao goes everywhere, does everything- it doesn't limit itself to categories or hierarchies of meaning, trying to speak in the King's English only, though Diaz and his narrator(s) have clearly mastered it, but instead refreshes and reforms the way language is used to describe the chaos of the 21st Century. Diaz swerves all over the place, mixing history family adolescence adulthood sex "high culture" and "low culture" and much more, without losing the narrative thread or self-indulgently ignoring the reader's attention. His grasp of the many multicolored threads of the plot keep the plot's engine running, and takes the reader along for the ride.
The nightmare of the Trujillo dictatorship, "the dictatingest dictator who ever dictated", a brutal and paranoid and Stalinist and macho and totalitarian state of emergency if there ever was one, casts its pall over every page but, crucially, the eloquence and moral outrage and the sheer narrative zest of the novel fights back against the all-too-real, all-too-human horror it records. I was intrigued by the brisk, informative but informal footnotes giving my gringo ass much-needed Cliff's Notes on a legacy of brutality I unfortunately knew little about.
I saw this interview with Diaz once with these two totally stereotypical liberal academic types who prattle on about how they thought it was so interesting how the book talked about that nasty man- what was his name again?- and the Dominican-born Diaz politely says "Trujillo" with the subtle roll of the accent and everything and they respond, without missing a beat, "o yeah, him..." and blithely continue with their conversation like he wasn't even in the room. I hadn't read the novel yet, but in that moment, I was down to check this out.
I'm glad I did. Who couldn't feel for poor Oscar with his flab and his clammy awkwardness and his obsession with "nerd" culture- sci-fi, anime, fantasy, LOTR, etc- and his achingly thwarted, flailing attempts at love and romance. He's a symbol for those of us who are in love with art and (sub)culture and the written word to the detriment of so-called normal life. But Oscar isn't a freak (though everybody thinks he is) and his isn't a loser (though most people tell him he is) and he isn't stupid, even though he falls in love with the wrong puta. He needs what all people who think too much and feel too much (you might call them "nerds") need- someone who will guide them, listen to them, mentor them. Help them get the most out of their life and obsessions because, after all, in the end aren't the pretty much the same thing?
So yeah, now I will add my voice to the overwhelming majority of people who have already stated that this book is bomb. A little redundant, maybe, a little late to the party, sure. But better late than never....more
Sublime. And not for the endless murders, either. Their effect gets a little blunted after awhile, but the prose tingles on the nape of your neck, li Sublime. And not for the endless murders, either. Their effect gets a little blunted after awhile, but the prose tingles on the nape of your neck, like night time in the desert or a guillotine blade.
The neo-Biblical language must have been incredibly tricky to sustain, but sustain it McCarthy does. It's King James but as read by Thomas Hobbes (and read it he did) mixed with the dustiest, rustiest, churches-filled-with-gutted-bodies Western Peckinpah or Leone never dreamed of.
Eric said it scared him, which is a complement nonpareil.
For me it was all about the ending. I knew pretty well what happened in terms of major plot points already (it's unavoidable with a tome like this, especially if you love reading essays and reviews on unread books as much as I do) so the shock factor wasn't as much of a selling point for me. It never is; I like spoilers.
But one of the reasons why this is a five-star book, after all the reverent hushes from other readers and the constant gore and wanton slaughter is that even if I already pretty much knew what was going to happen I was still stunned when it did.
When I finished it, reading the last few pages over a few times, I felt hollowed out. Shaken. Vulnerable. A cotton ball could have knocked me over. I felt like crying, but didn't.
His first, and not a bad debut. A little pangs-of-first-love here, a little erudite irritations there, always the masterly control of phrasing and ton His first, and not a bad debut. A little pangs-of-first-love here, a little erudite irritations there, always the masterly control of phrasing and tone. It's kind of book that takes you a day to read but that's actually a good thing.
The last few pages really made it all come together- the very last page made me all verkempt.
Brutally well-written. Haunting and disturbing. N's bitter farewell to his uncomfortable decade-plus in Berlin and with a few subtle hints of the madn Brutally well-written. Haunting and disturbing. N's bitter farewell to his uncomfortable decade-plus in Berlin and with a few subtle hints of the madness and decadence to come after he managed to escape with his family to the states.
Disturbing, which is a word that I don't use very often and am consistently annoyed with the causal employment of, but in this case, yeah. Made my flesh creep even as I couldn't tear my eyes away from it.