The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao
Finally, my comments on the book more than a year after I bought it and two years after I first read about it.
Author: Junot Diaz
There’s been a lot of praise for this book, heck, it even won a Pulitzer Prize. But I read this for the purpose of looking at Diaz’s portrayal of an otaku. Oh, how I wish the OEG guys were still alive and we could have asked them if the book’s main character could lay claim to the title of otaku. That aside, with all the praise this book has garnered, I will just dwell on my dislikes.
First, there’s too many footnotes. Can’t Diaz just put notes at the back of the book? There are times when the footnotes are more than half the page. I understand that there is a lot of stuff to be explained, considering that there a lot who don’t know about the history of the Dominican Republic. But frankly, it’s annoying.
Second, Diaz traces the fuku, the curse on Oscar’s family, that seems to be the cause of misfortune/tragedy that happens to the family. I had this misconception that this book would be all about Oscar, so I was a little disappointed when the focus turned to the origins of the family. I mean, the title says “The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao”, and not “The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao and a Long History of His Family”. Half of the book isn’t really about Oscar. Anyway, the parts that I liked usually had Oscar in them, mainly the early and last parts of the book (or maybe 2/5 of it).
Lastly and most importantly, there was one unforgivable thing. Oscar the otaku’s faves range from (of course) American comic books to science fiction books to anime to other stuff in between. But I cannot forgive Robotech Macross! Robotech Macross????!!!! Noooooo!!!!! A real otaku wouldn’t make the mistake of putting them together!
ROBOTECH != MACROSS
MACROSS >>>>>> ROBOTECH
Portrayal of otaku
In this case it’s Oscar. From the mentions of sci-fi authors to Marvel characters and other geeky pursuits, it’s there. If I wasn’t a former Marvel fan, and if I hadn’t leveled up a little in the geeky pursuits of science fiction, a lot of references would have been lost to me. There’s also the usual problems with the opposite sex thingy and the weight problems. What’s different is that our guy does level up a bit in the end. (How? See the spoiler in the ending.)
Out in the cruel world, Oscar dies in what would seem to be a abnormal death for an otaku. But he gets laid before he falls! Our otaku-hero sacrifices himself in the name of love. I don’t know if this can be called a happy ending, but I approve. In anime I could point out male characters who deserve to die (but unfortunately they don’t).
Recommended for those with interest in Latin American culture, especially with the Dominican Republic. As for the portrayal of otaku, it’s there yeah but it’s like only 2/5 of the book. Most of it is spot-on. Over-all the book is a good read and it would be better to approach it open-minded and not with wrong expectations (like I did).