Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao – Junot Díaz

One thing I am learning about the sewing habit is that fabric and patterns are my stepping stones.  Gateway drugs, if you will.  Here’s the next phase.  Welcome to my world.

Buttons.  BUTTONS ARE MY CRACKROCK.  Omg, you guys.  I have a problem.  Hence, I’ve been meaning to sit down and write here for days now, but instead I’ve been making these nonstop all the time without rest constantly. 

I CANNOT CEASE, my friends.  What are they?  Why, thank you for asking!  They are fabric cuff bracelets with vintage buttons, and I’m obsessed.  (And oh yeah, they are $10, but no pressure or anything.  And free shipping!  But no pressure.)  And I’m getting much better at those pesky buttonholes, I’ll have you know.  I’m starting to think that the sewing portion of my book-deliberation is becoming mandatory.  Like I need the quiet space to process, yet still have my hands busy doing something interesting.  My thoughts need to percolate.  To stew.  Or something.  Anyway, here we go.

I really liked this book.  I’m not sure if I actually understood it, but I liked it nonetheless. 

The narrative takes place in New Jersey and the Dominican Republic and chronicles the life of our hapless hero, Oscar.  The dude just can’t catch a break – overweight, misunderstood, a sci-fi and role-playing enthusiast who had the misfortune to be born Dominican – a Latin culture that apparently places an enormous premium on physicality and cool.  So Oscar doesn’t fit in, anywhere, ever, the poor guy.  The story is told from multiple perspectives (Oscar’s, his sister Lola’s, and his sister’s boyfriend Yunior, to name a few), and what I liked best was the energy of the prose.  (Admittedly, I’ve never felt like more of a whitegirl/gringa than while reading this particular book.  Tons of Spanglish and Latin slang on every page – I was as out-of-place as Oscar.  (I grew up in rural Oklahoma, people.  I am ill-equipped.))  The shifting point-of-view served to characterize both the speaker (Yunior, for example) as well as the focus of the speaker’s story (Oscar, usually).  In this way the prose worked doubletime, making the reader privy to the various facets of each character.  While reading, I could compare Oscar’s inner life with his public persona, and in this way synthesize the information to come to a deeper understanding of Oscar’s identity.  I thought it a unique way to write, and to read, a novel.

Anyway, I think you should read it.  Then you can explain it to me.  Thanks in advance.

On a completely separate note, I’m having something of a moral dilemma about this blog, and I need to poll my readers.  On the one hand, I need to be completely honest with you about what I read.  Otherwise, what is the point of a book blog?  On the other, I don’t want to offend anyone by criticizing a book they love.  And I can be…vitriolic.  You see, most of the books I read are given to me or recommended to me by dear friends, some of whom may be very sensitive about the books they love.  The bottom line for me is - if I hate a book that you love, that doesn’t mean I’m right.  It doesn’t mean you’re wrong.  And it certainly doesn’t mean that I think any differently about you, as a person, because you love a book that I don’t – and I certainly apologize if I’ve been insensitive to anyone’s feelings.  Many beloved friends even loved Twilight.  (You know who you are.)  So what do you think?  How do I reconcile this?  How do I navigate the space of being inviting and gracious, yet still truthful to my own ideas?  


  1. Loved the post. Meant to respond that I would not at all be offended if you wrote a post about not liking a book that I like. Not sure how to navigate being inviting and gracious while being truthful as I don't think that's a strength of mine. I say just be honest! Did you read Nesbo?

    1. thanks! i started nesbo, couldn't get into it! too tom clancy for me. i don't like male main characters as a general rule (but there are of course exceptions). great seeing you guys this weekend, and thanks for reading & commenting. it really helps my confidence level!