Monday, February 9, 2009

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz

On February 10 at 7:30 p.m., the evening book group will discuss Junot Diaz's The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, which traces the family history (and curse) of the de Leons, a Dominican family which moves to New Jersey. Winner of the 2008 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao is filled with references to the comic books, films, and fantasy novels that Oscar loves; footnotes on the history of the Dominican Republic; and (untranslated) Spanish phrases, which make it unlike anything I've ever read before, including Drown, Diaz's previous book.

You can get discussion questions here and here. Wikipedia has an entry on the history of the Dominican Republic here.

Wondering what a mongoose looks like? I found an interesting interview with Junot Diaz in which he explains why he used a mongoose.

Footnote readers will find a reference to "Macondo vs. McOndo". According to Wikipedia, Macondo refers to the town in which many of the magic realist Gabriel Garcia Marquez's works take place. McOndo is a grittier, more realistic Latin American literature. In one interview Junot Diaz says "I'm thinking, like a Caribbean, why can't we have 'em both simultaneously?".

Diaz uses a lot of fantasy references as metaphors in his book. Yunior the narrator refers to himself as a Watcher, which you can read about in Wikipedia if you're not familiar with Fantastic Four comic books. There are also comparisons between the Dominican Republic under Trujillo and Mordor, the land where the evil Sauron had his headquarters in Lord of the Rings.

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