Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Shelf Life: The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

I heard of The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao through a guy I was MSNing with. A few days later I found it in the racks of the second-hand bookstores in Khao San Road.

It's the kind of book whose language lingers in your head long after you finished it. Author Junot Diaz uses a mix of ghetto English and Spanish and the colloquialism injects a burst of verve for such a tragic novel.

With a theme akin to magical realism, one can almost put him under the category of Isabelle Allende or Gabriel Garcia Marquez but the language the author uses gives this Pulitzer Prize-winning piece more edge and spunk. The book jumps from one time frame to another, using a mishmash of writing styles, with a consistent angsty and cocky tone.

The main character, Oscar Wao, is an overweight geek raised by his mother, Beli, who has long left the Dominican Republic. She settles in New Jersey together with Oscar and her daughter, Lola. The novel unravels the unfortunate fate of Beli, Lola (to a certain extent), and eventually Oscar Wao himself. Their shared disastrous lives, which spans generations before them, is brought upon by fuku, believed to be a curse of sorts, "specifically the Curse and the Doom of the New World".

Woven into the story of Oscar Wao's family is that dark period of Dominican history (replete with numerous and lengthy footnotes), namely the reign of terror of infamous dictator, Trujillo, perhaps the worst fuku that befell the country. (Any Pinoy quite familiar with our own Marcos would find the events in the story a bit familiar.)

If anything, the book is a hysterical observation of the social and political madness of a banana republic and the lives it shapes.

P.S. For you people who bother to celebrate the holidays, this book would be a wonderful choice for a gift instead of a bleeding scented candle or an angel figurine, for Christ's sake!


Jase/"Gayzha" said...

oh, i love books!

kawadjan said...

jase: winner. any recommendations? you should write about them in your blog too noh.


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