Jan. 29th, 2013

starlady: Anna Maria from PoTC at the helm: "bring me that horizon" (bring me that horizon)
Díaz, Junot. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. New York: Riverhead Books, 2007.

This is a really, really excellent book, clearly the exception that proves the rule that the Pulitzer Prize often goes to the totally undeserving.

Probably everyone knows by now that this book is about the eponymous overweight Dominican nerd from New Jersey of the title. Let me tell you, if you haven't read this book--particularly if you're in a position to get the genre, and particularly Tolkien, references--you really, really should. As the late [personal profile] skywardprodigal pointed out, Oscar's very existence is a rebuke to a lot of the nastier myths about (the lack of) SFF fans of color, and if only for that reason, it's worth reading. But there's a lot more going on here than that, and I don't want to overlook any of it.

The book tells the story of Oscar from the perspective of his one friend, Yunior, but Oscar's story isn't just his own--it's the story of his sister Lola, of his mother Beli, of his grandmother La Inca, of their family, of Trujillo, of the Dominican Republic itself. Unlike many other readers, I did get about a microsecond of Dominican history through reading Julia Alvarez's In the Time of the Butterflies, whose protagonists the Maribal sisters are also frequently name-checked in the footnotes.[1] Díaz goes deeper and much more explicitly into all the ways that Dominican history is fucked up, and it was interesting getting a comparative perspective on the Trujillo era, to say the least. More to the point, words fail at the sheer verve and pleasure of Díaz's writing, even when he's describing some of the most horrific practices of a horrific regime, and a horrific history. (Sidenote: I don't suppose it surprises anyone that Oscar's New Jersey and mine are almost totally different, but let me assure you, this is New Jersey, and Oscar and his sister are indisputably of New Jersey, and I could recognize New Jersey in their lives and even some of the places they spend those lives, and I really enjoyed that.)

Having skimmed most of the enthusiastic blurbs on the covers and endpapers, I actually suspect that most mainstream literary critics didn't get the real point of this book. No, I don't think riffing on Kurtz means the world has been saved. )


starlady: Raven on a MacBook (Default)

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