Free thoughts on language learning

Discussions on learning Spanish, English and other language issues. Occasionally, we may stray from language learning topics if there is something that catches my interest.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao
Author: Junot DÍaz

It's not often that you find a books that make you sorry when it ends and The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao is one of those books. Growing up in New York City I've worked and played with lots of people from the Dominican Republic but I must say that I've been ignorant of all but the most cursory facts about the history of the country. The big thing, of course is the brutal reign of President Rafael LeĆ³nidas Trujillo.

The life of Über-nerd Oscar Wao is revealed through scenes from his life and the lives of his, sister, mother and grandmother. While not quite a Rashomon mix of conflicting views it does end up creating a richer picture of Oscar's life than would otherwise be possible if taken only from Oscar's viewpoint. Oscar grows up in New Jersey and lives and breathes Science Fiction and Fantasy novels, Dungeons and Dragons, poor hygene and cringe inducing awkwardness with the opposite sex. We follow the family as it contends with a fukú or curse, that causes misery across the generations. This may not sound like much fun but it is funny, poignant and you love these characters and wish them well even though you learn that 'it ain't gonna happen' for them.

The language that is used throughout the book includes plenty of Spanish expressions both clean and not so clean that convey a wonderful sense of the music of the culture . I only wish that the phrases or words that I wasn't familiar with were available in a glossary so that I could get the benefit of all the gems strewn throughout the book. Obviously this is not a language instruction book. It is a terrific piece of literature that gives one very smart, erudite and funny person's view on both Dominican immigrant and island culture. By this book and lose a few nights of sleep finishing it.

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