Iowa City Public Library's Reviews > The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Díaz
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's review
Jul 15, 2010

bookshelves: fiction, john, staff-picks-blog

Junot Diaz published Drown, a collection of stories in 1996, but nothing since, until this new novel, which got some of the most ecstatic reviews of the autumn. Clearly the excitement here is about Diaz’s prose style, an obscene, supercharged mix of street slang, obscure Tolkien/Star Trek/comic book references, and (uh-oh) Spanish.

The story itself turns out to be just a family saga, tho a good one. The Cabrals of the Dominican Republic suffer from a fuku or curse, which goes back a couple generations. Actually, all Dominicans were cursed by the Trujillo regime, among the most oppressive dictatorships of the last century, a century notable for its oppressive dictators. We learn a good deal about Trujillo’s depredations.

Our ostensible hero here is Oscar, obese, devoted to science fiction and fantasy novels/games/movies, and doomed to celibacy. Oscar falls in love easily and often, but given his size, shyness, and erudite speech, seldom gets even as far as "just friends." That seems a fairly gentle version of the fuku, after we find out what happened to his immediate ancestors in the Dominican Republic, but it catches up with Oscar in the end.

The prose style is pretty exciting most of the time, but I’d leave Diaz in the category of an author to watch, rather than one that’s arrived. --John

From ICPL Staff Picks Blog

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