Having been forced to read this book for English class this summer made it hard for me to like it. Plus being used to reading classical literature, which had dialogue that was much more formal and poetic made it even harder for me to identify with the book. It was during class discussion that I finally started to appreciate the book.
The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao is an interesting read. Although the language in the book contains a lot of slang and is often vulgar, I would recommend this book to anyone who likes a book with a witty and entertaining dialogue and a moving plot.
The narrator Yunior, the friend of the main character, uses language that is filled with slang. It can become challenging for the reader, especially to a younger audience. It is often hard to follow what Yunior is trying to say. For example, when he narrates about the time he was mugged, he says, “Even those nights after I got jumped she wouldn’t let me steal on her ass for nothing.” In another instance, he says, “I got bopped.” Even I, a native English speaker, do not fully understand what it means to be “bopped.” I often had to consult with my paperback dictionary or an online dictionary of slang to understand the meaning of certain passages.
Yunior’s language is also vulgar, which can be offensive. His vulgarity can offend many readers who are used to classical literature. The language in classical literature is usually more refined because it strives to elevate human character. However, in The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, the author is trying to keep Yunior’s language authentic in order to immerse the reader in the reality of the novel. For example, when Yunior talks about Lola going to Spain, he says, “[…] her big fucking dream finally come true and she was worried shitless about him.” In another scene, Yunior utters, “I wanted to fuck silly this Indian girl I had on Douglass, smoke a joint, and then go to bed.” Yunior’s vulgarity often makes the reader want to place the book back down. Not everyone can tolerate the use of expletives.
In spite of all the slang and expletives, the book is a real winner because of its great dialogue and excellent plot. The dialogue in the book is very entertaining because it is witty. A funny dialogue always wins the audience. For example, when Yunior tells the history of Trujillo’s reign, he uses references to evil villains from comics, “He was our Sauron, our Arwan, our Darkseid, our Once and Future Dictator.” In another instance Yunior tells about the time when Oscar’s mother, Belicia, fell in love. This is the way Yunior describes how she used her body to gain the attention of her crush, “She threw everything she had at Jack. Batted her eyes so much at him that she almost sprained her eyelids.”
Not only will the dialogue lure readers in, the plot will also capture the reader’s attention. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao is a tragedy and a comedy. It is the story of a family trying to fight off fuku, the curse and the doom of the New World. For example, there is Oscar’s curse of being a total outcast of his community, something that every reader once experienced and can relate to. The book may seem a bit slow paced at the beginning, having to learn about the history of the Dominican Republic through footnotes. However Yunior’s crude humor and reference to sci-fi makes it much more entertaining and interesting to the readers.
Unlike most plots that usually follow the main character, Diaz uses a distinct way to tell the plot. It is peculiar how Diaz tells the tale of the de Leons. Instead of starting with previous generation, Abelard, and progressing to the present generation Oscar, Diaz does the opposite. He starts with Oscar, and then moves backwards to Abelard.
I would nominate this book for readers who are looking for a heart rendering read, and can handle expletives and obscenities in the narrative. Readers that are somewhat familiar with slang, and don’t mind buying boxes of tissues because this book can have tear jerking moments along with laughter filled moments.