Review The Brief Wondrous Life Of Oscar Wao

Review     The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz


This story is about the life of Oscar, a lovable but unlovable (or is it just unloved?) nerdy fat writer kid and his family.    It is fascinating.  It is like a story being told in a bar with the story teller being unable to stay on topic and gives the best little asides to make sure you can follow along and yet you really can’t because it’s all way out of my sphere of knowing anything that is going on.   Get it?

I admit, the first 50 pages had me wondering if I was going to stick around for the ending.   I had to ease into the author’s style and once I did, it was a delight.    I bet hearing this novel via the audiobook way would be a great way for me to do this book again.  Although, I wonder if the footnotes are interspersed at the time of the footnote note or at the end of the paragraph.    not important…

So this family is from the Dominican Republic.  You will learn a lot about DR in this book.   This family has been cursed.  But, hey!  whose family hasn’t, right?   and how that curse keeps showing up in each generation – is it really a curse, or is it… just LIFE?  

SPOILER ALERT!!!   (Pardon my language mom, but I have to write this.)   Almost to the bitter end, I was thinking that this book was about sex and how the poor hero of the story never gets any.     We’re all f&*%-ed, but Oscar never is.   are, rather, he IS.   anyway, lots of sex in this and yet, it’s not a trashy novel.  not steamy, in the kind of way you think of a book that might be full of sex.   It’s got its share of violence, and passion; but not bodice-ripper nonsense. 

This book had me laughing out loud a lot!  and shrieking in astonishment.   and fear that evil politics exist today.   power, abuse of power, violence.  and LOVE.    there is love in this book, too.

a fascinating read, all the way around.   However.   If I hadn’t known what I know about The Lord of the Rings, there would be too many references right over my head.   In fact, I believe, I glossed over a lot of stuff in this book – don’t get me started on the Spanish language!  – and I know I have to read Dune and maybe The Fountainhead and I’ve failed to note all the other books that are touched on.   I have no idea what all gaming and fantasy and anime and other cultural references to geekiness I flat out skipped, but it didn’t distract me from the power of the story.   I knew I would have to confront a lot of that going in and I was able to get over it.  

so, 4 star or 4 and 1/2?     I think, I’m going with 4 and 1/2.     

[I just read the back of the book jacket and it is exactly what I would have hoped to write here:   Jennifer Reese of Entertainment Weekly says   “Terrific… Narrated in high-energy Spanglish, the book is packed with wide-ranging cultural references – to Dune, Julia Alvarez*, The Sound of Music – as well as erudite and hilarious footnotes on Caribbean history.  It is a joy to read, and ever bit as exhilarating to reread.”]

Yes, I just might have to go get the audiobook…  Has anyone tried this?

* Julia Alvarez?  I don’t remember this.  see?!   my point is made.   and oh yea – what was all that about The Watcher?


More Oscar Wao Review

For other reviews of The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz

Jessica’s The Blue Stocking Society
Nymeth’s Things Mean A Lot (From July 2008 )
One Minute Book Reviews

(please let me know if you have reviewed this – I will link it up!)

My notes taken while reading…  includes vocabulary.   (I have ZERO Spanish – this is going to be obvious.)

words first…
p.56 fea, hija  (used throughout)  fea = ugly, hija = daughter

p.61 callow “…like all boys:  beautiful and callow…”    callow = lacking adult maturity or experience

p. 89 melnibonian  (nothing online until I found this:  Melniboné  )

p.100 scromfed – I could only find this in the urbandictionary and yet what I found was not the ‘just another word for screwing’ that I expected.   Here’s the sentence:  “For about a month they scromfed in various isolated corners of the school…”

p. 100 4d10  – eek!  a measurement, I assume.

p 104 (and elsewhere) zangana = drone, criada = servant, guapa = handsome

p.150 the creature’s chabine eyes – Caribbean mythology?

154 sola (ok I know thought this is something representing the sun or solar….)   NOPE!   Here’s the sentence and the translation (I’m using Yahoo’s Babel Fish, btw.  COOL STUFF!)

“me mataron a mi hijo.  Estoy sola, estoy sola”  =  “they killed son to me. I am single, I am single”

p.198 “…she would ig me…”    ig – just short for ignore.  OR… is it the great vulture that watches over us?

p.212 coffle “coffled to a beer”  = A group of animals, prisoners or slaves chained together in a line.   but, to a beer?

p.214 tertulias = social gatherings

p.245 theremin = early popular electronic performing instrument


NOTE-WORTHY (to me) stuff and/or EXTREMELY WELL-WRITTEN parts, pages
p.136 great quote:  “Success, after all, loves a witness, but failure can’t exist without one.”

P.144-145 Paragraphs about the power of prayer.    I especially was fond of the “…plucky seven-year-old whose piety, until then, had been obscured by a penchant for blowing mucus out of her nostrils like a man.”

p.178 para on orcs…   “Wondering aloud, If we were orcs, wouldn’t we, at a racial level, imagine ourselves to look like elves?”   

p.205.  WHO IS LOLA WRITING TO?!   Yunior?

p.215 – reminder to go check if I’ve ever seen the movie Point Blank.   I think I first had an image of Keanu Reeves but that was Point Break.   shake head…    UH OH.   If this is a reference to the 1967 movie – I have not seen it!  but I want to.    The file says that this was remade as Payback with Mel Gibson which is one of my favorite badass movies.

p. 283 “Prostitutes ruined my life.”    comic moment?  

p.297 Jim Kelly as Oscar’s hero?!   The Buffalo Bills football player?

I’ve got other stuff written down, but it’s only helping me to relive the story;  really doesn’t add much to the list here…