Saturday, February 8, 2014

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar WaoThe Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Díaz
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The Polar Vortex seems like a good excuse for me to read books that are both a) On my To-Read list and b) On my physical bookshelf. Nothing like a billion inches of snow to convince me to check out some of the books I already have instead of going to the library for stacks and stacks of books I only wish I had.

First up, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz. This book made its way onto my To-Read list ages ago. It was about time I gave it a chance. While I'm not exactly glad I did, I don't regret it either. This was a good book, but I just don't think it was written for me. It's also not a "happy" book, so I doubt many people are "glad" to read it.

We know from the get-go that poor Oscar has a brief life, but let's not forget that it is also wondrous. From his obesity to his obsession with all things nerd (I definitely did not get all the sci-fi/fantasy/comic book references--there's my first hint that I'm not the ideal reader), Oscar never quite fits in. Add to that his deep and intense love-feelings for unavailable women, and we have ourselves a tragic character. I found Oscar lovable. I related to his writing and to his unpopularity. I rooted for him, all the while knowing he doesn't/can't win.

I also found Yunior, the narrator and Oscar's one-time college roommate, rather lovable--or at least honest. Especially in the first and last parts of the book, his tone and voice drew me in, and make me want to seek out more of Junot Diaz's (perhaps shorter) works.

That middle section, though. That's where he lost me. I don't know if it was the lengthy footnotes (much too hard to read on a bouncy city bus in the gray of winter, so I gave up on them) or the change of focus (instead of learning more about Oscar we get the back-story of his family's curse and the history of his grandfather, mother, and sister), but I had to skim to keep myself going and make sure I actually finished.

Don't get me wrong--I liked this book, and I think I'll be thinking about for a few days. There's a lot to digest. I just really don't feel like I'm the intended audience, at least not at this point in my life. I wonder what a younger, less-in-love, more awkward and unsure Rachel would think. I might have absorbed this book in college. After finishing, I appreciate the middle section more. I get what it was getting at. I was just way more interested in Oscar.

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