I’ve heard a LOT about Junot Diaz and his works. Out of curiosity, I decided to read The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. And I am super ambivalent about what I just read. Especially since a lot of parts reminded me of Julia Alvarez’s How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents–but with an extra layer of self-loathing.
The novel is several stories surrounding the titular character, Oscar. He is a Dominican-American young man who is overweight and geeky, with interests in writing, science fiction, fantasy, and role-playing games. A stereotypical nerd. He is also a virgin and has this bad habit of falling in love with the wrong kind of woman. We hear about Oscar and his family through a series of interconnected narratives. The one that interested me the most was the family history of Oscar’s mom and grandparents who lived through (and suffered through) Trujillo’s dictatorship. If the novel had been about Trujillo and his effects upon the Dominican citizen and identity, I would have found it hugely interesting.
But you know how much I do not care for self-loathing. Oscar is FULL OF IT. Look, there are parts of him that are endearing and make me want to cheer for him. But The Big Bang Theory and countless romantic comedies have soured me on the “nice guy” and make me want to say, “DO YOU. Stop mooning over shallow women and live your life with joy and freedom.” Alas. No one listens to me. But it’s not that easy to dismiss Oscar, because the narrative takes a really, really dark turn that makes me feel guilty for feeling the way I do. And then that turn gets darker.
How do I feel in the end? I don’t know. I’m not sorry I read it, but I really don’t know what else to add.