The Good, the Bad and the Nerdy

May I just say that I’m really glad that I finally finished “The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao”? From the beginning we find out that as an adolescent he grew into a very fat, unattractive nerd. That should have raised an alarm and it did, but I kept reading. I guess the title had me hooked; I wanted to find out what exactly caused Oscar to check out early and also what could possibly be wondrous about this poor loser’s life. Don’t hold your breath, I’ll tell you: Nada. The whole way through I felt bad about not having paid more attention during my Spanish classes back in high school because the author, perhaps assuming that everybody speaks Spanish, used a bunch of Spanish expressions all the way through, which is cool in terms of injecting the story with authenticity, but an index of sorts or even the occasional translation would have been much appreciated. The one thing I did enjoy was learning about the Dominican Republic, which is where our anti-hero’s mother comes from, and also where half the story is situated. All I knew about that place before was that loads of French Canadians make the “Rep Dom” (for République Dominicaine”) their second home. Though I’m sure the warm weather and beautiful beaches are part of what keeps them going back every year, what they really go for is the promise of sex with the locals who are apparently all too happy to play amorous hosts to older and fatter women they hope will marry them and take them out of abject poverty. That bit wasn’t in the book. One real-life character who is regularly mentioned in the story is Rafael Leónidas Trujillo Molina, who for thirty years was the dictator of the DR; “The Trujillo Era”, as it is referred to, is considered one of the bloodiest of the 20th century, but I’m ashamed to say that I had never heard about him. Junot Díaz did a great job of presenting him in all his shameful glory and taking pot shots at him by simply retelling known incidents about Trujillo’s reign. Those bits I enjoyed the most somehow. I just have a hard time connecting to a story where every single character is unsympathetic. Go figure. Apparently that’s what the Pulitzer Prize judges seem to appreciate though so… what the hell do I know, right?

It’s all good, I’ve already moved on. I’m immersing myself into India’s underbelly next—The White Tiger, which won the Man Booker Prize this year seems promising so far—I may or may not write about it by journey’s end. I’ve got to get cracking with the reading because December will be over before I know it and I have a goal of 50 books for 2008. Just two more to go. Make them good, Oh Lord, make them good.

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