tiistai 23. helmikuuta 2010

Junot Díaz: The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

Oscar was a social introvert who trembled with fear during gym class and watched nerd British shows like Doctor Who and Blake's 7, and could tell you the difference between a Veritech fighter and a Zentraedi walker, and he used a lot of huge-sounding nerd words like indefatigable and ubiquitous when talking to niggers who would barely graduate from high school.

Dominican-American Junot Díaz won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction for The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, his first and (so far) only novel. Kind of like a Caribbean John Irving novel gone nerdy, Oscar Wao is a complex and fragmented story about a Dominican family who later immigrate into America.

The main character, Oscar Wao, epitomises a classic nerd, and the sections of the novel that are narrated from his perspective are by far the best ones in my opinion. If you're familiar with your Tolkien, RPG and preferably a wide range of science fiction and Japanese comics, you're in for an intertextual treat. Some of the random references were completely foreign to me, but the carefully crafted über-nerd character of Oscar Wao is sure to appeal to a particular section of society. ;)

Mixed with the tragicomic life of Oscar is the story of his family and older relatives who live under the reign of Dominican dictator Rafael Trujillo. The novel documents life under Trujillo's rule in detail (complete with explanatory footnotes that take up entire pages!). This is all, of course, told in a mixture of English and Spanglish, with numerous Spanish words and phrases left untranslated, thus distancing the less proficient reader. I have to admit that I mainly just skimmed over these parts, not bothering to check or try to understand the exact terms or complex historical details.

I can see why the novel received such a positive welcome in America, and it's no doubt a good read anywhere else in the world.

Junot Díaz: The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. Faber & Faber. 2008.

NY Times review: "Dreaming in Spanglish"
The New Canon: The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao
Wikipedia: The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao
Wikipedia: Junot Díaz

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