So, in my continuing reading efforts (it's all I'm doing now - I've pretty much completely eliminated TV) I recently finished The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao.
This is one of those books that it makes me sad to think was in the world for a while before I read it. And I can't imagine what I did before I read it. Amazing.
Here's what Booklist had to say about it:
Díaz's gutsy short story collection Drown (1996) made the young Dominican American a literary star. Readers who have had to wait a decade for his first novel are now spectacularly rewarded. Paralleling his own experiences growing up in the Dominican Republic and New Jersey, he has choreographed a family saga at once sanguinary and sexy that confronts the horrific brutality at loose during the reign of the dictator Trujillo. Díaz's besieged characters look to the supernatural for explanations and hope, from fukú, the curse unleashed when Europeans arrived on Hispaniola, to the forces dramatized in the works of science fiction and fantasy so beloved by the chubby ghetto nerd Oscar Wao, the brilliantly realized boy of conscience at the center of this whirlwind tale. Writing in a combustible mix of slang and lyricism, Díaz loops back and forth in time and place, generating sly and lascivious humor in counterpoint to tyranny and sorrow. And his characters—Oscar, the hopeless romantic; Lola, his no-nonsense sister; their heartbroken mother; and the irresistible homeboy narrator—cling to life with the magical strength of superheroes, yet how vibrantly human they are. Propelled by compassion, Díaz's novel is intrepid and radiant.And it was. Intrepid and Radiant.
I had the experience of reading this and then immediately thereafter reading Little Bee (which I hated). I think maybe I wouldn't have hated Little Bee had I not just finished this.
The difference is that Diaz wrote of a world, a culture, an experience that he knew - whereas I thought the author of Little Bee had really ventured too far afield to give his story real legs.
All I can say is that Oscar Wao just staggered me. Funny. Brilliant. Sexy. Full of yearning and hope amid hopelessness. Ridiculous and beautiful.
If you haven't read it, please do.