Thursday, July 24, 2014

Review: The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz


The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz
Publisher: Riverhead Books
Genre: Adult
Format: Hardcover
Pages: 335 • Source: Rented
Buy it: Amazon • Add it: Goodreads 
My rating: 2.0


Synopsis from Goodreads:

Things have never been easy for Oscar, a sweet but disastrously overweight ghetto nerd, a New Jersey romantic who dreams of becoming the Dominican J.R.R. Tolkien and, most of all, of finding love. But he may never get what he wants, thanks to the fukú — the ancient curse that has haunted Oscar's family for generations, dooming them to prison, torture, tragic accidents, and, above all, ill-starred love. Oscar, still dreaming of his first kiss, is only its most recent victim - until the fateful summer that he decides to be its last.


My Thoughts:

It's been awhile since I've had the time to review a book. It's not that my scheduled has freed up, if anything it's gotten worse, but when I finished reading The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, I had to write a review in order to move on from this week of confusion and utter astonishment. This book was assigned to me by my professor and when I read the synopsis, saw all the great reviews, and prizes this book has won, I was excited at the chance to read it. About a quarter of the way through I became worried, hoping (with fingers crossed) that it would get better. 335 pages later I am saddened to say that (at least for me) it didn't.

Oscar's character had so much potential. Most of us can relate to feeling like an outcast and I don't know anyone who's had it worse than Oscar: No friends, no respect from his family, no respect for himself. Only a heartless person would read about Oscar's life and feel no compassion for him. For this reason, and this reason only, I am giving this book the two stars it has. Because in the end, I did empathize with this sad and lonely human being. But that is the extent of my love for this book. Diaz writes this novel with a blend of Spanish and English, which if you speak Spanish is no problem, but if you don't, I have no idea how you would follow. Then there's the language. Granted I'm no saint, I love the use of curse words just as much as the next person, but most of the time it was just raunchy and vulgar. I feel compelled to share an exert to prove my point:

"I mean, what straight middle-aged brother has not attempted to regenerate himself through the alchemy of young Pussy. And if what she often said to her daughter was true, Beli had some of the finest pussy around. The sexy isthmus of her waist alone would have launched a thousand yolas, and while the upper-class boys might have had their issues with her, Gangster was a man of the world, had fucked more prietas than you could count. He didn't care about that shit. What he wanted was to suck Beli's enormous breasts, to fuck her pussy until it was a mango-juice swamp," (Diaz 123-124).

**sigh**  It's not the use of the word "fuck" or the word "pussy" here that disturbs me, it's the context in which it's used and the metaphor. Ugh, gag me with a spoon. This leads to the next problem I had with this book. It seems the entire purpose of this book is to get laid. Everyone just wants to have sex, that's it. Oscar doesn't want to fall in love (as much as Diaz tries to say he does). What Oscar wants is to get laid, point blank, that's it. So does his mother, his sister, his uncle, his cousin, his friend, his neighbor... you get the point. Add to this "theme" the fact that every single woman is drop dead gorgeous and the epitome of every man's fantasies, and what you end up with is porn. Really, that's it. Not one female in this novel has a single redeeming quality. As a woman, this fact just infuriated me.

Finally, the sad truth is that Oscar's life isn't "wondrous" as the title claims. There is nothing at all remarkable about this saddened boy/turned man's life. The entire time you're rooting for him to get ahead, for his life to finally become wondrous, to make all this time and effort you've exerted into this tiring attempt at human emotion worth while. And by the time you reach the last page, you're left with no hope and no sense of fulfillment.

As a writer myself I don't like to give bad reviews, but sometimes there's just no way around it. I didn't enjoy this read and it hurts me to say that I wouldn't recommend it to anyone. But if you choose to give it a go (many people have truly enjoyed it) I would love to hear your thoughts and why for you it worked (or didn't).

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