Mad Professah read the book during my trip to Italy in January 2008.
As readers of this blog may know, I follow the winners of the Hugo and Nebula awards pretty closely. These are the awards for speculative fiction, which is a great pastime of mine.
The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao is not a science fiction or fantasy book, but it is about the people who read those kinds of books and will especially resonate more intensely with people familiar with the classics of those genres.
The story follows Oscar, a 300-plus pound Dominican "nerd" who is obsessed with science fiction and fantasy as well as unlucky in love.
However, the book also weaves in the story of Oscar's family, especially his mother and sister, and in so doing vividly depicts life on the island of Santo Domingo as well as the barrios of New Jersey. In a somewhat controversial stylistic choice, the author uses footnotes to includes fascinating historical details on the Dominican Republic as well as the liberal inclusion of several Spanish words throughout the text which he does not translate, but leaves to the reader to obtain their meaning from the context (which is usually possible). I imagine that a Spanish speaker would have an even more resonant experience with the work.
I was completely enchanted with this book. Not only is it enjoyable by people familiar with Hobbits, Star Trek, Star Wars and other science fiction tropes but I would also recommended it to people with an immigrant or bicultural background, who have enjoyed the works of Jhumpa Lahiri (whose The Namesake was one of my favoite books in 2006).
One aspect of writing reviews of book for this blog that I have noticed is that books that I really, really like often take the longest for me to sit down and complete an official review. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao is definitely in that category, but it is a book I think about often even though I finished it nearly 16 months ago. And how many books (or, really works of art, period) can one say that about?
OVERALL GRADE: A/A+.
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