Monday, 18 May 2009

Wowed by Wao?

A few weeks ago, that consummate YA author M G Harris enthused about The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. That was recommendation enough for me, and I ran, rather than walked, to the bookstore to pick up a copy.

Having finished the book, I am finding it hard to say how I feel about it.

There were a couple of things I didn't like. The text is sprinkled with more Spanish than is helpful if you don't speak any. Sometimes you can guess what it means by context, sometimes you can't. If you're a Spanish speaker, imagine that it was Russian - would you still feel it was acceptable? And it had the sort of downer of an ending that I would have loved aged 20, but these days I tend to avoid, as I prefer to go out with a smile.

But with that aside, it was a wonderful reading experience. The footnotes, filling in factual background (I assume it's factual) on the Dominican Republic and its revolution in a chatty fashion, the use of many geeky references, the humour and the pathos - yes it's all brilliant.

So I might not love it - but I'm glad I read it.

2 comments:

  1. I've heard very mixed things about this book. Some people love it, some hate it. And I'm always turned off by anything that receives that much hype. But I'm glad to hear your response, measured and sensible. Maybe I'll read it after all.

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  2. Brian, as ever you are too kind about my authorial abilities...
    Yup, I was going to warn you about the Spanish but I didn't want to prejudge. The truth is that understanding the Spanish adds a lot to the enjoyment. Even many Spanish speakers won't get it all...In fact, if it wasn't for all the Cuban music and reggaeton (Puerto Rican hip hop) that I listen to I'm not sure I'd get the slang either...it's very regional.
    The historical stuff concurs with what I've read in Vargas Llosa's 'Feast of the Goat', also about the DR under Trujillo.
    I'm also glad you read it Brian! I'm all for the broadening of horizons! Wouldn't bother with Bolano's Savage Detectives though...600 pages about the lives of Mexican visceral realist poets...is not really doing it for me.

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