July 17, 2010

Literary Pick (****)

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao
-(Junot Diaz)

This review is probably going to seem a bit choppy.
I waited months to read this book. I have a reading order which I mentally follow, and since I don't do two fictions at once, I had to wait till I finished this massive classic I was already reading, but once I finished it I was able to finally start The Brief Wonderous Life of Oscar Wao, and you know what they say,... good things come to those who wait. I didn't start reading it that day until I was able to read it in peace in an air conditioned room. I was really excited about it and even went online to view Junot Diaz's video interviews. I found one on NY1 news channel that was in Spanish. Great! I like this guy already! love the way he talks "que vaina!". Reminded me of Brooklyn. My Brother-in-law is Dominican, my family is Puerto Rican, so this is going to be cool! This is going to temporarily transport me to the scenes of my roots!
The book starts off with Junot telling us about the fuku. I personally never heard of the Dominican fuku, but in PR we have el cuco. Not exactly the same thing, and of course not in the form of a slave-driving totalitarian tyrant by the name of Rafael Leónidas Trujillo Molina, but el cuco was el cuco to us, and everyone has a cuco/fuku story. Cool, I can already culture-relate. Then there were the comical latin manners and expressions that I am so familiar with and miss. Oscar's crazy family, his treasonous friends, and the slutty around-the-way girls from the block. Ok, neat, I can relate to all that, but what I couldn't initially relate to was Oscar. He wasn't a typical teenager, at least not one that I ever encountered in my teenage years. Maybe back in the day I was too around-the-way myself to have noticed such a dork. I'm usually not that insensitive about boys, but I tend to judge people who are addicted to all that crap of gaming and comic books.  I sympathized with him a little, and I've heard guys complaining about the "let's just be friends" bullshit girls try to pull on them. I still seemed to have trouble relating to Oscar.  His problems weren't important enough for me to feel that bad for him.. There's not one video game or comic book in Oscar's world that I've ever even heard of, if in fact they are actual and not fictional comic books and games. I've never been into anime, video games, cartoons, or sci-fi so that alone made it a genre out of my reach. At first I didn't think I was Junot's target audience. This book felt like a young adult book that young adults should'nt be reading. The vulgarity of it took me by surprise, but I was later able to come to terms with it because I realized it was a story told by Yunior.
Plus, growing up in like the worst part of Brooklyn (East Ny) and being raised in a neighborhood of Puerto Ricans and Domincans I've never in my life recall dominicans calling each other niggers. Where did Diaz get that from? nigga, maybe, but not even. I think if you asked a Domicano from the island what a nigger is, they'd be like "un que?"

But..... then you start reading the story from lola's (his sister) point of view. Then you start reading about Beli's history (the mother). Oh Man! that kept going a thousand miles a minute. It had so many shades of 100 years of Solitude right down to the never-ending family curse! That's when I really started getting into it. Then there was Don Abelard's dilemma, I was horrified and captivated. I was worried there for a minute that the novel was going to be all about Oscar and his toto quest, and his video games and comic book obsession. Thank goodness it wasn't.
Once it covered the entire family history and spun back to Oscar, I was completely into it. Although, to be totally honest, I found Oscar's role rather boring. I know Junot had the talent to make him more spectacular, but maybe the lack of excitement in Oscar's role was purposely suppose to reflect Oscar's own frustrations of how unexciting his life was. All I know is that all the other characters were absolutely electrifying.
However, I don't think I've ever read so many pages in one day. This book is basically un-put-downable. I read it in the car, I read it as as I ate, I read it as I slept. The only times I put the book down was to shower.
I thought I was going dislike this book but I ended up loving it!
I commend Junot's effort in squeezing in as much Dominican political history in the footnotes of this book. I think they were the funnest footnotes I've ever read, although again, it felt like they were written for a younger audience. Perhaps that's the reason why I liked them and I just don't want to admit it.
This book was definitely more about keeping the political awareness of the Dominican Republic alive disguised as a novel.
That's ok, because the way he did it got my attention. I learned a lot about the Dominican Republic politics, that otherwise I would've never learned had I not read this book. It inspired me to go on-line and read more about Santo Domingo, Haiti, and Venezuela. Great way to keep the awareness of the socio-economic situation that still currently exists in Dominican Republic.  

The rest of the story ended a bit anti-climatic, but it was still worth my while.
I resisted this book so much at the beginning because there was something about it that felt very YA (young adult). This book is very manipulative, I like being in charge of what I read.  Which is the reason why I don't like reading hype books.  But this was a good one.
"what did I tell you about those putas?"



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