It’s true, I really can read!
THE BOOK: The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz
My feeble thoughts: This book come with many honors and I am not surprised. It’s the story of a Dominican family, with a chubby romantic named Oscar at its center, that immigrates to Brooklyn to escape the horrors of their homeland. They are kind of lost folks (cursed, some may claim), no matter where they try to live. It was eye opening, being that I’ve played on the beautiful beaches of the Dominican Republic, to read more of the country’s gnarly history of oppression, violence, and poverty. The book’s voice(s) and the writing – with massively long footnotes – are undoubtably unique, but I had a few issues with it. First, the Spanglish, although endearing, was frustrating for me. My eight grade Spanish knowledge was useful about 10% of the time. There would be entire sentences that I did not understand. I usually read before bed too, so there was no way I was going to hop online to try and translate any of it. It also references lots of sci-fi movies/shows/books and role-playing games, a majority of which I didn’t get (and I think most people wouldn’t either). I felt left out, plain and simple. Also, the title implies that the book is about Oscar, but frankly, I didn’t really feel like I got to know him all that well. The book jumps from character to character in Oscar’s life, narrated by different people (but not consistently) and I found it a little difficult to fully dive in and root for Oscar. This doesn’t give anything away: a narrator emerges late into the book and you don’t know this, but he is actually a character from other writings by Junot Diaz, named Yunior. I kept thinking, WHO IS THIS GUY? Anyway, I was not Wilde (that’s a sneaky reference to the title) about it but it was not bad, not bad at all.
Would I recommend it to a stranger on the bus (trying to make his way home)? Yeah, probably, especially if they are bilingual or of Dominican heritage.
What I am reading now: As you rightfully assumed, I still haven’t finished Getting Things Done (oh, the irony) but I’m currently reading Freedom by Jonathan Franzen, which comes highly recommended by the Hubs. So far, it’s very good!