So I lay supine all afternoon, drinking tea, feet up on a huge orange cushion and finished Oscar Wao. I’d set it aside for a couple of weeks when my Hurricane Katrina books arrived, but, having finished with that aspect of my research, I took it back up, and finished it in one fell and fatal swoop.
Suffice to say that damn Pulitzer was well earned. Junot Diaz has written a stunning novel. More than anything else it’s the voice, that electric, unstoppable voice that tells a Dominican family epic with an electric and vibrant language that is 100% modern nerd. I lost count of the Lord of the Rings metaphors, role playing game allusions (how Diaz quantifies real and emotion pain in terms of the amount of hit point damage it does) to endless references to sci-fi, fantasy novels, comic books, anime, everything and anything. It’s brilliant, and had me cracking up. Man, THIS is what Garci Marquez was missing. All that emotional power with a crazy, modern sense of humor.
After the voice, it’s the characters. As with DROWN, Diaz has this insane ability to describe real people, complete with all their limitations and convictions, their passions and perversities. They’re simply real. Incredible.
From there, the plot seems to take a distant third; it doesn’t matter so much what happens as how the characters feel throughout, and how those feelings are described by the narrator. The plot is incidental, almost, at least on a day to day level. There is a generational sweep thought that fuels the entire book, a curse that is expounded on from the first pages, and that curse, the fuku, is what the ‘plot’ is all about; decisions and revisions on the parts of the characters seem almost irrelevant in contrast.
So, Oscar Wao: brilliant, sparkling with genius, bursting with real characters, a stunning voice, innovative and delirious and refreshing and hilarious all. Go read it if you’re one of the few who haven’t yet done so.