Jessica'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
Sep 26, 2007

liked it
Recommended for: bilingual tolkienheads?
Read in November, 2007

Junot Diaz's swearing annoys me. Remember that guy in high school who smoked all the time, chainsmoked even, had been smoking since he was eleven, but it always just seemed really awkward and fake, like he was doing it to look cool or something, he didn't really enjoy smoking, and it didn't look right? Diaz swears like that guy smokes. It's fucking annoying.

I found the swearing in the first few pages of this novel distracting. However, I've been waiting for this book to come out for almost a decade, so I hope I get time to read it before it goes back to the library. I bet it'll be good. Diaz is a terrific writer, potty-mouth and all.


Post-book reaction can be found here:
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Comments (showing 1-19 of 19) (19 new)

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Jessica I think at this point I've already written a book of reviews, and I think that it's free, and you already have it.

Thank you! That's really sweet! I'll pass it on to my boss, if he ever comes by and wants to know why I've been doing so much typing lately, and so little social work.

message 2: by Paul (new)

Paul Bryant That goes for me too. May I request even less social work and many more reviews? After all, you surely know by now that all those people you are trying to socialwork better are the authors of their own misfortune and can't be changed. I could be wrong there, it may be that God is mad at them.

Jessica I am starting to worry that Junot Diaz might be the author of my misfortune. This book will be good, right? It took him ten years to write, and then I was on the library waiting list for what felt like ten years, so it must be!

Maybe I shouldn't have gone to see him read last year. Sometimes it turns out to be a mistake, and this might be one of those times. There's something about writers where meeting them can interfere with a special anonymity that they need for that kind of intimacy. Especially if the author seems like an unpleasant person, not that I'm saying Mr. Diaz necessarily did....

Well, it's due back on the 23rd and I've got three papers to write this week, so we'll see.

Rachel I have a hard time understanding the appeal of meeting authors.

message 5: by Paul (new)

Paul Bryant I agree - I took my daughter to a book signing a couple of Saturdays ago (Jacqueline Wilson) and there were ten billion kids + parents queued up for miles. It was really silly. We went and wasted our time somewhere else. I have met a few of my heroes, but they've all been musicians. That also can be a wrong thing to do but I because these were folk musicians it was good.

Rachel I can see the appeal of meeting musicians. I would not be opposed to climbing a palm tree with Keith Richards. Unfortunately, my favorite rock gods are mostly dead. I can also understand meeting cookbook authors, or certain nonfiction writers, like maybe Studs Terkel. It's mostly the fiction writers I try to avoid. Indeed I think it is for the reason Jessica mentioned: some removal is necessary for the fiction trick to work.

message 7: by Jessica (last edited Nov 15, 2007 07:10AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Jessica I actually used to be pretty into the idea of meeting writers. They're the most accessible famous artists, and unlike a musician the parts of them that create the thing you like (brain and skill with words) are theoretically involved in the interaction. However, experience has changed my mind about this, and I think I'll avoid it in the future (unless I ever get a chance to meet Dianna Wynne Jones, a childhood dream). I'm pretty sure part the problem I'm having getting into this book stems from now being hampered by a clear image of Junot Diaz the person (though there are other issues I'd blame on the book).

There have been some exceptions. I can't remember his name now, but meeting the guy who wrote the book about the kid with chocolate pox (a good one, actually) was a positive experience. It was at Black Oak Books and there weren't many people there, no kids at all, and the author was talking to some grownup and got really excited when he saw me and ditched the grownup and ran over to sign my book and ask me a lot of questions. I was shy and intimidated but mom told him I wanted to be a writer and he was very encouraging, which was exciting coming from someone who'd actually published something, so that was a good experience. Come to think of it, I consider meeting Ishmael Reed a good experience too, but it's making me realize I only like meeting authors who will encourage my ridiculous literary ambitions....

Meeting Francesca Lia Block was fine, and it was fun when we got the Cynthia Heimel book signed! Usually, though, meeting people whose work I'm emotionally attached to is a pretty sure recipe for disaster. It's like, you think you're not expecting anything (what could one reasonably expect?) but on some level you are, and it's invariably a let-down. Then you have to deal with the reprecussions later when you try to read that person's stuff again. In general, I think the fiction/nonfiction rule is a good one.

I personally don't like meeting musicians whose work I have an emotional attachment to, because it can interfere with my appreciation of that music in the future. This happened to me recently with a band I really like. In general, the less I know about someone (writer, actor, singer) whose work I really appreciate, the better. Though I would also really like to meet Studs Terkel!

Rachel Yesterday I heard on the radio a lady telling the most adorable story about meeting Noman Mailer on a train from Chicago to Maine at X-mastime in 1942. She was a music student going home for the holidays with an enormous suitcase and he was a not-yet-famous-19-year-old soldier. He carried her suitcase and impressed her by declaring with great confidence that he was a Writer. They shared the delicious sandwiches his grandma made for him and evidently had an exciting one-night-romance on the train. Then later it turned out he really *was* a writer. This lady was sooooo lovable. Did anyone else hear this?

message 9: by Samantha (new) - added it

Samantha Jessica, I'd buy your book of book reviews too! I have read all of your bookface writing and frequently refer friends to your stunningly accurate, and usually hilarious, reviews. We want more!

message 10: by Samantha (new) - added it

Samantha I met Studs Terkel once - actually no, I didn't meet him at all but I heard him speak at City Arts and Lectures shortly before the first election of George W.B. He convinced me to vote for Nader. He was charming.

Jessica DUDE I CANNOT FUCKKIN BELIEVE this book just won the PULITZER.

I mean, it was FINE, it wasn't BAD, but this book really wasn't just wasn't that GREAT or anything. I really do not understand these things. I really don't!

I actually find this shocking, though I don't know why that is, since it's not like I always love all the Pulitzer winners. Still, again, I liked this book, but it seemed really deeply flawed to me. There just seems to be little rhyme or reason to these things. How do they decide this stuff, anyway?

I don't know why I find this so astounding, but for some reason when my roommate just told me about this, I nearly had a heart attack.


message 12: by Paul (new)

Paul Bryant Yeah well Vernon God Little won the Booker Prize. As did a bunch of other shite.

Michael I'm similarly surprised by the award for this book, although I had my own misgivings and/or problems with the story.

message 14: by Edan (new) - rated it 5 stars

Edan I really liked this book, and I totally called that this book would win the Pulitzer. Brian said Tree of Smoke would win...but I was right!

message 15: by brian (last edited Apr 08, 2008 05:26AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

brian   you were right edan. i am totally surprised. pulitzer always seems to have their eye on the big american book. tree of smoke had the sweep of history, the denis johnson factor (a guy who has an edgy rep, but is mainstream in the book world), and it's long. i thought it was a done deal.

but of course these prizes exist to legitimize literature... y'know? that anyone can still say "how the hell did 'X' win?!?!?", in a way, validates that books mean something to us. the prize exists, on a kind of 'meta' level, much more for what it isn't, than for what it is... capiche?

message 16: by Chadwick (new)

Chadwick Ummm, didn't Kavalier and Clay win the Pulizter? I mean, winning the Pulizter these days is kind of like getting a letter from Ed McMahon saying You May Already be a Winner, right?

message 17: by Chadwick (new)

Chadwick Dude, Confederacy is to novels what Graceland is to records: perfect from start to finish.

message 18: by Georgia (new)

Georgia Very sorry, Chadwick, but I would rephrase that - Confederacy is to novels what Graceland is to interior design.

message 19: by [deleted user] (new)

oh okay

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