Two Interviews with Junot Diaz

Now that I’ve finished the book, I’ve been digging through all the interviews with him about the “Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. Here are two good ones:

Interview in BOMB Magazine by Edwidge Danticat (a fellow NBCC Award winner for “Brother, I’m Dying)

Interview in Boldtype (where we learn that even though Yunior is not Diaz and Diaz is not Yunior, they at least share the same mouth)

Good stuff.

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The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao (page 75 to THE END)

Well. This didn’t go quite like I planned it. I finished the novel last night. Couldn’t stop reading it. And the thought of having to stop to write a synopsis was simply untenable. It would have been a disservice to Junot Díaz and, in truth, to the readers.

I didn’t enjoy writing the “Your Designated Reader” posts at all. I think I approached them all wrong. They seemed a bit pointless and a terrible way to experience any novel, much less one that was such a joy to read. Seriously, if any of you actually were following these posts: read the book. It will be a much better use of your time.

Maybe a better way would have been to simply journal my impressions after each sitting and not worry so much about chronicling everything that goes on in the book. A more solipsistic approach, sure, but maybe that’s the point.

So let’s wrap this up quickly and I’ll share a few of my thoughts about “The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao.” I’ll try my best not to ruin the ending.

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The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao (pages 51-75)

Chapter Two – Wildwood 1982-1985 (pages 51-75)

“It’s never the changes we want that change everything.”

There is a shift in voice for this section. The narrative has switched from our humble Watcher, to Oscar’s sister, Lola, who gives a mostly first-person account of her coming of age.

Three themes dominate Lola’s narrative: her life-and-death test of wills against her mother, her mother’s illness, and her newfound independent spirit (that is nurtured when she is sent to Santo Domingo.)

The first three pages are Lola’s recollection (written in the second person) of the day her mother discovers a lump in her breast. The day everything changes. She describes her mother’s breasts as:

“Immensities. One of the wonders of the world. The only ones you’ve seen that are bigger are in nudie magazines or on really fat ladies. They’re 35 triple-Ds and the aureoles are as big as saucers and black as pitch and at their edges are fierce hairs that sometimes she plucked and sometimes she didn’t.”

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The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao (pages 28-50)

Oscar is Brave

“Senior year found him bloated, dyspeptic, and, most cruelly, alone in his lack of girlfriend.” Even Oscar’s two nerdy friends, Al and Miggs, have girlfriends-two skanks-but girlfriends nonetheless. Oscar has the epiphany that even his friends were embarrassed by him.

He asks his mother if she thinks he’s ugly. She replies, “Well, hijo, you certainly don’t take after me.” Another glimpse of Oscar’s relationship with his mother.

The rest of this section covers Oscar’s trip to Santo Domingo for the summer. Where his reclusive tendencies are encouraged by his abuela, Nina Inca, who allows him to stay indoors and focus on his reading and writing. When asked by his cousins, “What is he doing?” She replies, “being a genius is what.” Oscar returns from Santo Domingo with a newfound sense of pride in his creative impulses and his “otakuness” (this is good word I forgot to mention on pg. 21).

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The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao (pages 12-28)

The Golden Age

The narrator starts right off the heart of Oscar Wao’s problem: “dude never had much luck with the females (how very un-Dominican of him).” The height of his luck with the ladies was at age seven, when he behaved like a “‘normal’ Dominican boy raised in a ‘typical’ Dominican family.” His mother described him as “our little Porfirio Rubirosa.” This leads to a lengthy footnote describing “Rubi” as:

“the original Dominican Player (who) fucked all sorts of women-Barbara Hutton, Doris Duke (who happened to be the richest woman in the world), the French actress Danielle Darrieux, and Zsa Zsa Gabor-to name a few”

and who died when his 12-cylinder Ferrari skidded off the road. The footnote ends with a bit of foreshadowing by stating, “hard to overstate the role cars play in our narrative.”

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The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

I just read an excerpt of the first 5 pages of “The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao.” I can already tell, this is going to be interesting. Fans of extended footnotes should consider joining in on the fun.

I’m off to the bookstore. First real post coming Mondayish.

Your Designated Reader

I am going to try a little experiment in the coming days, something that, if it works, may closer match the spirit of The Unliterate Review.

I first thought of the idea for the Unliterate Review when I read an article in the New York Times, in which Steve Jobs basically said that Amazon’s Kindle was a pointless concept because people no longer read books. The idea was to write a blog about books for people who don’t read. My original intent was to write snarky semi-sarcastic posts about literary topics that my intended audience would most likely not give a damn about in the first place. But I don’t do snark all that well. Also, I find the whole snarky, mocking, everything is *fail* vein of the blogosphere somewhat tiresome. Don’t get me wrong; I’m not trying to put myself above the fray. I’ve defended those types of blogs. I read them. I love With Leather and FireJoeMorgan. They do snark very well. But there is a legion of imitators who do not. I don’t want to be one of them.

More importantly, I love books. Those who know me would agree that I like books more than I like most people. It would be impossible for me to write about books in anything other than an earnest manner.

So onward to this experiment, which I am calling, “Your Designated Reader.” I will choose a novel that I have not read, by an author with whom I am not very familiar, and chronicle my experience reading it. Basically, I will sit down and read a portion of the book and then write a post about it before my next sitting. In each post I will give a brief synopsis of what’s going on in the novel, introduce any new characters or plot developments, etc. I will also write about my impressions thus far, any new words I discover, a certain passage that reminded me of something else, or anything I feel like talking about that day.

For this experiment, I’ve selected “The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao” the debut novel by Junot Diaz, which just won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. Diaz is the brightest new star in the literary world. I’ve only read one of his short stories from “Drown.” I don’t really have a strong impression of his writing, so I’m looking forward to diving in. Please join me.

For those who don’t read or have no intentions of reading the novel, you can view it as a highly personal and subjective Cliffs Notes version of the book. I have no qualms about you outsourcing your literacy to me. Consider me your reader-monkey.

For those who want to read along-GREAT! I welcome your comments. It could be our little reading group; or, most likely, one man’s conversation with himself.

For those of you who’ve already read the novel and think I’m a pretentious asshole-EVEN BETTER! I welcome your comments as well. You can come off as pretentious assholes with me. It’ll be fun.

It could be a recipe for disaster, but maybe it could turn out to be, in the words of Norman Mailer, a “special and peculiar” experience.

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