Book: The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao
Author: Junot Diaz
Published: 2007 (Riverhead Books)
I had no chance against this Pulitzer Prize winner.
It’s centered around a desperate geek who can’t get any girls (and he wants them so badly), who is half planted in his Dominican Republic family’s ancient curse set off by a snubbed dictator sixty years before, who is lonely and over literate and big and convinced he’s going to die a virgin.
At one point Oscar dresses up like Dr. Who for Halloween when he’s in college, and from the dates he’s there he must’ve made himself an awful Colin Baker patchwork coat complete with kitty pin on lapel because he’s teased so much for looking like Oscar Wilde that the nickname sticks, slightly bastardized and full of contempt: Oscar Wao. He answers to it.
There’s a musical sprinkling of Spanish, love enduring beatings in a cane field, and a magical mongoose across several generations, echoing each other in a life cycle that none can seem to pull themselves from despite knowing what happens next.
It culminates in a sacrifice that’s made me cry every time I’ve read the ending. It’s not a sacrifice for love, either; although that’s what it looks like and what Oscar was going for, I read it as more a sacrifice for what that love meant, for the life potential it let him glimpse.
And before it starts sounding all deep and shit—I mean, it is, but it’s written in the easy seriousness of Oscar’s college roommate that doesn’t drag all that epic down into melodramatics.
So, this is one of my favorite books, and Junot Diaz, I will find and read your short story collection Drown. It will be done.