Tuesday, August 25, 2009

the brief wondrous life of oscar wao

I had expected the praised and awardwinning "The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao" by Junot Díaz to be something quite, quite different than it was. True, an original story, a story that makes one very grateful for one's own life, opportunities and country of birth, but still my main impression of it was that of annoyance. For various reasons.

The plethora of foul ghetto lingua, the lots and lots of Spanish phrases - my Spanish isn't what it used to be and even if it was I probably wouldn't understand half the expressions anyway - got in the way of the heartbreaking story.

A more befitting title would possibly be "The Misadventerous Life of Unfortunate Oscar Wao" since it was so very far from a wondrous life for poor Oscar, more a life of constant misfortune, misery and unrequited love. Not only for Oscar but his whole cursed family.

I found the glimpses into the life and history of the Dominican Republic, the Trujillo dictatorship and its ghastliness, to be the most interesting pieces of the book. Which once again makes me wonder what makes South America so seemingly proned to dictatorships.

Other than that - plus, I suspect, it being thoroughly worked through, an easy read and amongst all misery having an air of dry, sarcastic and witty humour -, a book so crudely revolving around carnal pleasures - a lot of it -, just isn't my idea of an interesting and mind evolving or, if that's what one's after at times, relaxing, lightweight read.

To me, just a curious novel with a disappointing end (that too) and no, not really a recommended read. I'm sure it appeals to some with that particular taste in books. I'm just not one of them.


Ady Grafovna said...

I loved this book! I lived in Chile and traveled around South America for a while, so some of the cultural things were similar and many of the ghetto slang phrases were easily recognizable to me.

My mother, who has only schoolbook Spanish under her belt, also found the Spanish to be irksome. I thought it added to the charm of the novel and I especally loved the footnotes throughout.

I thought the characters were both complex and realistic.

And I found the story to tell a far different message than the depressing one that you understood from it.

I guess we will have to agree to disagree.

Pia K said...

Yes, the footnotes I liked too, Ady. But the rest, not so much then. I can understand that one's impression and views of a book very much is influenced by one's own experiences, background and insights, which must be a good thing, just imagine if we all liked the exact same books, shudder... Agree to disagree, done:)

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