Thursday, July 22, 2010

the brief wondrous life of oscar wao.

i'm on a real reading kick this summer, which is so refreshing. when i was working full-time as an editor a few years ago, i kind of skimped on the reading because my job was, well, reading--and reading pieces that were written for entertainment value (as opposed to academic, medical, technical, etc.). now that my job involves more writing and critical thinking and marketing, the intense desire that i've always previously had for books has returned with a vengeance, and i'm so happy. plus, summer is the best season for reading. really.

my latest conquest was the pulitzer prize-winning the brief wondrous life of oscar wao, by junot diaz. this was a big departure from let the great world spin, which i wrote about here, but it was just as wonderful and moving. the story centers around the de leons, a dominican family made up of oscar, a nerdly, morbidly obese young man in love with love and driven to become the dominican j.r.r. tolkien; his sister, lola, a street- and book-smart young woman who loves her brother unconditionally and wrestles with her relationship with her mother; and beli, oscar and lola's mother. beli's painful but incredibly compelling backstory was one of my favorite parts of the entire book, and it's that story that shapes lola and especially oscar's futures more than they could ever dream of comprehending.

this book is a history lesson, too; it takes its readers not only through oscar, lola, and beli's family history, but also the reign of the horrible dictator rafael trujillo (whom i knew embarassingly little about prior to this book), which directly affects the de leons. still, diaz, to his huge credit, binds the story together tightly; even when he's talking about the big picture--dominican history--he makes sure his reader always relates it to the smaller, but equally moving, story of oscar, lola, beli and the people who make up their worlds. 

diaz's writing is a perfect mixture of authoritative, street-slang-laced spanglish and poetical english, and it propelled me through the novel, kept me flipping pages late into the night. diaz's style, i think, can best be described as joyful, even when the subject he's writing about is decidedly less so.

needless to say, i highly recommend this book--i love it when i come away from a novel inspired by both the subject and the author's writing style, and i did both with the brief wondrous life of oscar wao. diaz's pulitzer is well deserved; i hope that you'll enjoy his work as much as i did.

p.s. my cat is named oscar, and my beloved family dog, who passed away recently, was named lola. loved that connection to this book, too.

next up: the thousand autumns of jacob de zoet, by david mitchell!

photo by joiebutter.

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