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  3. Depression’s Role in “The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao” (Nov. )

It's impossible to categorize, which is a good thing. There's the epic novel, the domestic novel, the social novel, the historical novel, and the 'language' novel. People talk about the Great American Novel and the immigrant novel. It doesn't care about categories.


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It's densely populated; it's obsessed with language. It's Dominican and American, not about immigration but diaspora, in which one family's dramas are entwined with a nation's, not about history as information but as dark-force destroyer. Really, it's a love novel.

His dazzling wordplay is impressive. But by the end, it is his tenderness and loyalty and melancholy that breaks the heart. That is wondrous in itself. It's not a bad gambit, to always leave your audience wanting more. So brief and wondrous, this life of Oscar. It is a joy to read, and every bit as exhilarating to reread.

Junot Díaz: "The Brief Wondrous Lives of Oscar Wao"

And some older writers—we know who we are—might want to think about stepping up their game. Oscar Wao shows a novelist engaged with the culture, high and low, and its polyglot language. Would you like to tell us about a lower price? If you are a seller for this product, would you like to suggest updates through seller support?

Learn more about Amazon Prime. Read more Read less. Add both to Cart Add both to List. Buy the selected items together This item: Ships from and sold by Amazon. Customers who viewed this item also viewed. Page 1 of 1 Start over Page 1 of 1. Sponsored products related to this item What's this? The Book of Moon. A witty coming-of-age novel for adults. An inspirational coming of age story that follows a young boy's quest to overcome tragic loss and embrace a future in which anything is possible Rooks of the Raven. Unravel a dark past that is slavery.

Rooks will leave you chilling with awe, sorrow, and admiration. Young teen fights her way through a life in chain. This collection of extreme horror stories has caused readers to hyperventilate and suffer from spine-tingling chills. Read at your own risk.


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  • A feel-good Irish springtime read. Fall in love with Ireland as you step aboard a bus tour, but none of the passengers get what they expect. If you miss Maeve Binchy you'll love this. Review "An extraordinarily vibrant book that's fueled by adrenaline-powered prose. Riverhead Books; Reprint edition September 2, Language: Related Video Shorts 0 Upload your video. You'll love this Mefford thriller. You'll read all night. A scavenger hunt through New York City. A love story you won't forget. When Conception Meets Deception. Do you salivate over juicy page-turners?

    Will he gulp the scandalous truth? Or lick a luscious lie? Try the Kindle edition and experience these great reading features: Share your thoughts with other customers. Write a customer review. Rated by customers interested in. Is this feature helpful? Thank you for your feedback. Read reviews that mention dominican diaz spanish junot republic footnotes language trujillo culture references pulitzer words mother sister fiction narrator voice english slang american.

    There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later. This is honestly one of the best books I have read in the past few years. I have given it as a gift to multiple people, and they have had nothing but good things to say about it. You need the hard-copy with the footnotes right on the page for you to read right as they come up in the book. Don't know, don't care, just read it. Another book which, but for my office's book club, I'd never have even heard of, let alone read: I'm also terribly glad I bought a used copy, but that's another issue.

    What we have here, is the story of a nerd - a fat incredibly fat , ugly, intellectual, verbose nerd whose parents Dad left when Oscar was but a wee thing came from the Dominican Republic but who grows up in Paterson, New Jersey, and who dreams of just two things: He is, as you might expect, a rather frustrated young man.

    Whole sections of the book, though, are not directly about Oscar, but about his family: Perhaps a third of the book is directly about Oscar de Leon who acquires the nickname Wao when some Domincan homies apparently have never heard of, and cannot correctly pronounce, Wilde. It's written, mostly, in a brilliant English, but with large quantities of Spanish, Dominican Spanish slang, and I don't know what-all else.

    Performance art

    I learned a number of Spanish words during the course of the book, some of which are not for use in polite company. Also the N-word pops up far more often than a gringo blanco like myself is comfortable with. Indeed, the final chapter reads to me as something tacked on by Yunior to give Oscar a bit of a happy ending. Your take on this may vary. I lived next door to my friend and the greatest writer alive, Francisco Goldman, and we had all these adventures, spent many a night getting into trouble in the big bad Distrito Federal.

    I remember dashing the first part out in a couple of weeks. I thought it was a story, nothing more. I wanted a narrative that could be top-level hilarious and top-level heartbreaking. I wanted a narrative that could be hip about the present yet also render the past not as something dead or shackled inside sepia tones but as something dynamic, with all its confusions, excitements, disappointments, and energies intact. And finally there was this very brainy interest I had in these weird and in my opinion reductive arguments in Latin American letters between the forces of Macondo and McOndo. One movement seeking to displace another.

    In the DR you could be watching the Red Sox on satellite one minute and then hear a ghost story the next. Every narrative strand you can muster. Every genre and convention. A heroin-addicted stripper-dating uncle? How autobiographical is this novel? More specifically, who is Oscar to you? And Yunior, your main narrator, whose identity is concealed until halfway through the book, who is he?

    Well, I was hoping that this book was crazy enough that no one would ask me if it was autobiographical. I have as yet not encountered a celestial guardian mongoose, but I did grow up Dominican in New Jersey. But like Oscar I loved to read sci-fi and fantasy and horror and pulps growing up. My escape from my father and my neighborhood. But in your novel, you get inside the heads of not only different types of men, but also some very strong women, from three generations.

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    Women are in some sense the heart of the novel. Did you make a conscious decision to write from a female point of view, or did it arise naturally? Do you see this as part of your development as a writer and a person? I knew this novel would live or die on its female characters. And man, did she almost take over completely. As a result she is forced to become strong at a fundamental level, strong in the way only women tend to be. Beli as a character turned into a tribute to an entire generation of women I grew up with my mother, her sisters, my friends who had come to the United States and given their lives to build our community, to make people like me possible.

    Beli, in a way, was the key that opened all the other women in the book: Beli and her story made me do it. Writing across gender lines is hard. There are only a few writers who can do this well, and most of them are women. Toni Morrison writes some goddamn good men, and so do K.


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    Bishop and Edwidge Danticat and Octavia Butler. I wanted to write about women as well as these sisters wrote about men; that was my goal, my dream. Because of your subject matter and your cultural background, this novel will have obvious appeal for Latino and especially Dominican readers. Do you worry that it might be seen too narrowly, as appealing to those readers only?

    What are the broader themes here? What would you say particularly to non-Latino readers about why they should read this book? Call me crazy, but I happen to be one of those writers who think that the Dominican experience is a universal experience. What scares me is that the sci-fi and fantasy and fanboy content of this novel, not its dominicanidad, may narrow its appeal. People I should put that word in quotes visit another quotable the Dominican Republic because they want to experience certain kinds of packaged otherness, not because they want to hear some guy going on about the Dionysian architects in From Hell.

    You construct an imaginary audience in your work and then you hope that its real-world analog will actually show up. Whether it occurs now or two hundred years from now is another question. I just happen to believe that folks of all cultures and colors, and grad school types and immigrants and lexics people who love to read and fanboys and fangirls and love-story addicts and lit heads and homeboys and homegirls and history buffs and activists and family-epic lovers and nerds can all sit in the same room together and blab usefully.

    In fact, I believe that all of the above were meant to sit in the same room and blab usefully to one another. There are a lot of literary references in this story, from comic books and science fiction to Henry Miller and Ayn Rand. But the dominant one is J. What role does it play here? Tolkien certainly is a favorite of Oscar, the protagonist, and also of the narrator, Yunior.

    Like a lot of young readers I grew up with Tolkien, back when the only film was that Ralph Bakshi craziness. I mean, consider his signature villain, Darkseid, whom I also tie to Trujillo: Darkseid and his Omega Beams and their ability to encapsulate a person — have you ever heard or seen anything like that? You have if you grew up in Santo Domingo. And then there was Kamandi. When Oscar dreams the end of the world, he dreams in Kamandi lines. But what matters is this: In my youth the only people who really seemed to be interested in exploring dictatorlike figures were the fantasy and science fiction writers, the comic-book artists.

    I read a lot. I love and have been influenced by I hope the usual suspects: MacLeod The Light Ages rocks! The weight of Dominican history hangs heavily over this book, especially the dictatorship of Trujillo. Is this something that Dominican-Americans are still very much aware of?

    History weighs heavy everywhere. Do you still have close family members there? Do you visit often? What can I tell you?

    Depression’s Role in “The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao” (Nov. )

    My home country is really screwed up, politically, economically, socially, but I love the place. It feeds my humanity. I go about three times a year. If you see me on the plane or waiting for my luggage, say hi, you know. Do you find a conflict between your teaching and your writing, or do they feed each other?