READ THIS! {Updates & Reviews}

Are you enjoying this month's READ THIS! novel, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz?

This novel came out a few years ago, and while it received a lot of praise, I never picked it up for whatever reason. Then, this year, Diaz released a collection of short stories, This Is How You Lose Her, and it received a large amount of praise - and made its way onto my "To Read" list. When I went to see if it was in the library, it wasn't - but The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao was, and I decided it was time to read it. Diaz won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2008, and New York magazine named it the best book of the year. Diaz pulled me quickly into the story, and once I had started, it was hard to put it down. Here are some reviews that might help you to see what is so magical about this book...

Michiko Kakutani, for the NYTimes, opened his review with this: "Junot Diaz's 'Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao' is a wondrous, not-so-brief first novel that is so original it can only be described as Mario Vargas Llosa meets 'Star Trek' meets David Foster Wallace meets Kanye West. It is funny, street-smart and keenly observed, and it unfolds from a comic portrait of a second-generation Dominican geek into a harrowing meditation on public and private history and the burdens of familial history. An extraordinarily vibrant book that's fueled by adrenaline-powered prose, it's confidently steered through several decades of history by a madcap, magpie voice that's equally at home talking about Tolkien and Trujillo, anime movies and ancient Dominican curses, sexual shenanigans at Rutgers University and secret police raids in Santo Domingo."

Roland Kelts, for, writes, "...'Wao' is a novel of attitude trumping all. Díaz mixes it all up, betraying both a heroic faith in his readers to sort out the inconsistencies and no small degree of authorial arrogance — even gleefully conflating narrator and author: 'While I was finishing the novel, I posted the thread fuku on the DR1 forum,' he writes in the opening pages. 'The talkback blew the fuck up.' Later, a brutal torture scene is compared to 'one of those nightmare MLA panels: endless.' Yunior or Díaz? Sci-fi or history? Blue pill or red? It doesn’t matter what you believe, Díaz seems to be saying. He believes in you."

Lesley McDowell, for The Independent, writes, "With this startling, breathless, sweetly harsh debut novel, Junot Díaz, a justifiable Pulitzer Prize winner, has managed to portray both the particularity of the inner life of a Dominican teenage boy in contemporary New Jersey, as well as draw universal conclusions about men and women, race and class. [...] Díaz's is a routine coming-of-age story, wherein the hero is always the misunderstood outsider. But that's where familiarity with the form ends. Díaz invests it with new power, with a political consciousness and with the cultural perspective of a previously ignored ethnic group."

And finally, Oscar Villalon, for The San Francisco Chronicle, raves, "The specificity of Diaz's language and its rhythm are as American as little pink houses for you and me. Yet couching its depiction among working-class Latinos, attending college, no less, is rare in our literature. That Diaz's novel is also full of ideas, that Yunior's brilliant talking rivals the monologues of Roth's Zuckerman - in short, that what he has produced is a kick-ass (and truly, that is the just word for it) work of modern fiction - all make "The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao" something exceedingly rare: a book in which a new America can recognize itself, but so can everyone else."

So, are you running out to pick up a copy? Make sure to come back at the end of the month to join us for the full review and discussion of Diaz's The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao!




  1. You are now the 2nd person I know that recommends this book!


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