The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz
Wow! - or in the words of dear Oscar as a rough estimate " was that copacetic or What! "
For my enjoyment this was a very fine work of kaleidoscopic fiction . But as soon as I say fiction I have to pause to realise there is so much historical data in the clever footnotes to give it a social history feel as well. I loved the background - the larger than life stories about the Dominican Republic - the small and big players - I learnt so much I didnt know about the Diaspora of that part of the world and especially the extent of the migration to the east coast of the USA . There is a lot of toing and froing by the main characters in the book between New Jersey, New York and the DR - and one gets the impression this happens with Puerto Rico, Haiti and Cuba as well - a very bustling, active part of the world which it was eye opening to read about in this well crafted stylish work.
The language in the work ( with Spanish phrases lightly peppered throughout the strong American English ) is a delight and adds to the colour and vibrancy of the settings and feel . Language is a special feature of this inventive novel - Fine English, Spanish, Patois and American slang words and phrases - all combined in this heady linguistic , migrant story. As an example of the unique strength of the prose - it can be noted that even though the Latino male libido is ever present in the stories , I dont recall seeing the word Macho written at all. It is an original in so many ways.
A major theme in the work is Oscar's growing up - he is a nerd who likes reading and watching science fiction , anime and playing computer games who has poor success with women but who has the yearnings of a great lover and hero . Although he suffers often in his tender and teen years he is lovable and his family are very protective of him.
The book is constructed around individual family member stories over three generations which make up the history of Oscar and his family - both in DR and the USA. These stories are riveting , often harrowing when set in the Trujillo years , however leavened with humour and the very earthy and often surprising scenarios.
The male narrator is a part of the story and associated with the family - although we know relatively less about him. The dialogue fits in neatly with his story telling and adds to the linguistic energy . Even though it is a book which is ostensibly a lot about males and their sexual concerns - the females are strong , well drawn and vital to the enjoyment and verisimilitude of the work.
A very fine book indeed is my judgement and I am really glad I read it. It won the recent Pulitzer for fiction , the two before if I remember correctly being March by Geraldine Brooks and The Road by Cormac McCarthy - two exceptional works as well. Especially The Road I must say. So it is a formidible prize and Diaz is fitting in that company.