The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao
Junot Díaz

Junot Díaz’s fractured tale of a nerdy Dominican who can’t shake a family curse defies labels by inviting so many. You certainly wouldn’t think a book as self-consciously “literary” as this (from the title’s allusion to Hemingway and mangling of “Oscar Wilde” to the inversion of Conrad’s Kurtz in the hero’s final words), so given over to metafictional asides and historical-political background painting, would have such intensity. Chalk it up the manic energy of Yunior’s voice, since when he’s not “on” the novel flags (another way of saying that the whole thing is too long). And chalk that energy up to this being a first novel, with all the lack of restraint that should entail. Much is thrown at the wall here, and much of it sticks.