The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

book by Junot Díaz

annotation by Michael Whelan

Where does a person begin with Junot Diaz’s The Brief Wondrous Life Of Oscar Wao?  I loved this novel, and have enjoyed discussing it with my peers.  The book was simply amazing.  Diaz’s voice is fresh, funny and exudes a sincerity and authenticity that is so unique in my opinion.  I do not read Diaz’s words, I live his story.

He is a master of characters and complex stories with several layers.  I cared about every single character in this story, even those who might not have been the most likeable.  On the surface, one thinks that this is a story about Oscar Wao and his life that was much too short but it’s really the story of his life, his family, and about their family fuku, a concept that I absolutely loved.

Diaz’s story is also rich in history and culture and the novel takes place or covers a very turbulent time in the Dominican Republic’s history.  Diaz’s use of Spanish, English, and his own twist on Spanglish only adds to the authenticity and culture of this novel.  He also did a great job with his nerdy language and in way gave the reader a taste of his own kind of nerd culture, which was awesome.

Something I found interesting was how Diaz uses footnotes in this novel.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen footnotes in fiction before, and if I have obviously not often.  When I think of footnotes, I think of stuffy, boring words to further reference a boring, bland topic.  Diaz’s footnotes are as engaging as his voice in the novel and his characters.  They give the reader information that is needed and/or valuable but do so with the same kind of fresh, humorous and engaging voice as the rest of his prose.

As a writer, I can only hope to have a voice as strong as Diaz’s in this novel, from his prose to his footnotes.  It is certainly the key to the novel’s sincerity.  Another thing I would hope to take away is his skill in creating characters you can’t help but become invested in, no matter how minute they are in the grand scheme of things.  It’s apparent that Diaz knows the ins and outs of his characters down to her/his last idiosyncrasy and it certainly makes the difference.

It’s remarkable to me how Diaz pulls from his own life so creatively.  I had nothing but the highest of expectations for this novel after reading Drown by Junot Diaz and this book did not only not disappoint them, it exceeded them. 

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