#4: The Brief Wonderous Life of Oscar Wao (by Junot Diaz)

God, really? Just 4? I suddenly suck at this reading jazz. What’s happened to me?

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Sigh. I just don’t know about this one. I’ve read other Pulitzer winners and found myself agreeing with the critical mass, but in this instance I’m having a hard time getting completely on board. Diaz writes in a kind of slash-and-burn style, aggressively urban and colloquial and with an unapologetic Dominican chauvinism. Like, do I know anything about the history of the Dominican Republic or the inner workings of the Dominican diaspora? Not a bit. And though our narrator is more than generous in his footnotes, a cliff-notes school of DR ephemera, there’s a cocky snideness in his explanations, and it’s damned off-putting. I’m left with the feeling that this book wasn’t made for me and I’m a silly gringo for trying to read it in the first place.

It’s too bad because the story is quite interesting, and really kills in parts, and, like I said, Diaz writes with a lot of panache. I suppose more than anything it is his style which ultimately loses me, not his story. The only reason I kept on reading despite a growing distaste for the method of delivery was my vested interest in the characters and a need to know how it all ended. But the further I went, the more irritated I became. When he actually deigns to, Diaz drops knowledge on us like he’s doing us a bit of a favor. More often though, he does not, and leaves the reader to puzzle out the Spanish language idioms or science fiction references, but like, should someone have to run multiple google searches while they’re reading something that’s supposed to be accessible fiction? And this is coming from me, a reader with an okay grasp of written Spanish and a solid background in sci-fi and fantasy geekery. So I mean, I get it. And while it’s sort of awesome to read about someone characterized as having “a guardedness so Minas Tirith in la pequeña that you’d need the whole of Mordor to overcome it”, if you can’t personally rep Lord of the Rings then WHAT THE FUCK DOES THAT EVEN MEAN??

Please someone, tell me why I should have enjoyed this more.

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