Wednesday, November 07, 2007

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

Finished. Gracías, Professoro Díaz.

¿Ahora, tenemos que esperar otros diez años?

¡Qué dolor....!

Me disculpo, I don't mean to be sin gratitud, pero...that was a hard wait. Still, everything has its own rhythm, and this ritmo came to fruition.

Truly, having heard Junot Díaz read there is so much of the rhythms of his own voice in this work. But notably, in what I read as a very clear and conscious choice, he's also included the voices of the women who have previously operated as rich plot markers and instigators of plot flow. The pathos of these characters as experienced by the various protagonists in Drown was almost so fleshily profound as to make one forget that those women's voices were never fully embodied, and as a result part of the story was missing. In The Brief and Wondrous Life... Díaz took on the challenge of not just creating these voices, but putting both the lead character, Oscar and the book's narrator in a world primarily populated by women. The choice illuminates some of the confounding aspects of culturally mediated gender relations, masculinity and femininity, and mother-daughter, father-daughter, relations within a context that Díaz specifically identifies as heterosexual (while allowing for some commentary on questions of homophobia in the New York/New Jersey area Dominican community). These female voices fill out the missing aspects of those prior tales of Dominican life, diaspora and politics. The rebellious daughter Lola (and her doppelgänger mother Belí) likely to become something of an archetype for brilliant, spirited, self-aware, diasporic daughters for a new generation of women living on the cusp/border of the cultural spheres to which their families have immigrated and those they left behind. Unfortunately, I don't have time to write my full thoughts about the work now, and plus I'm considering re-reading it, if I can find the time (ha!). But, yes, yes, a wonderful work, sharp, ruthless and sensitive and compassionate, and it earns its mileage, its scars and its balms.

Lastly (for now anyway), the use of footnotes are a geek's dream. How to simultaneously tell all the stories needed to tell the central story one is weaving? But not a technique for the faint of heart. All the rules of storytelling still apply, and the importance of editing for coherence, flow, and an even tighter rhythm than the main story, cannot, cannot, be underestimated. If I could figure out how to do this as densely in a multimedia context (you'd think more layers of mediums would make this easier, unh-uh), I'd be one ecstatic artist!

Endnote
...más...y...más...
Interview with Díaz by John Zuarino at Bookslut
Interview with Díaz by Edward Guthman at SFGate
Interview with Díaz by Boris Kachka at New York Magazine.com
(This interview features the Díaz quote: “When I talk to people I’m such a dumbass. When I enter that higher-order space that’s required to write, I’m a better human. For whatever my writing is, wherever it’s ranked, it definitely is the one place that I get to be beautiful.”)
Audio Interview with Díaz from Writers At Cornell
From Laila Lalami's blog: "Reading Recap: Junot Díaz in Los Angeles"
Interview with Díaz by Johnny Díaz at BostonGlobe.com
Interview with Díaz by Dave Weich at Powells.com

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5 Comments:

At 9:59 PM, Blogger ReggieH said...

Oscar is my favorite book this year. Just amazing...and yeah, I hope it won't be another ten years for the next one.

 
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