It’s hard to do anything but admire Junot Diaz’s prose, his incredibly facile use of language. That was the case with Drown, and it is certainly the case with his brief, wondrous novel, The Brief, Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao.
I’m not entirely certain that the book holds up entirely as a novel—in some cases, it seems a bit more like interconnected short stories—but I’d rather read a flawed Diaz novel any day than a totally coherent (in the old, sticks-together sense of the word, not the makes-sense sense).
Hearing him on Bookworm on KCRW—via podcast—I was interested to note not only the host’s take, but his own. I read Yunior and Oscar as the eternal male dichotomy, or at least the eternal intellectual male dichotomy. Perhaps it’s Diaz’s own personal dichotomy. How do you square the player with the D&D player? How do you square the macho dude with the girlish (in macho terms) bookishness. (Surprisingly, girls like both. See Alan Alda.)
I admit that I don’t quite get all of the Tolkein (etc) references, since I pretty much hated Lord of the Rings and never quite understood the rest of that stuff (though I realize it’s a cultural touchstone to a lot of nerd types). All I can say in my own defense on that front is that there are different kinds of nerds. And I’m probably 10 years older than Diaz, and so D&D, Star Wars, etc. pretty much came along while I was following the other side of that dichotomy.
I’ll spare the synopsis. Go read this book and find out what magic language can do.