The geek and the literary reader has a common book in their shelves. I think I am both. Obviously, my reading leans toward the more serious, highbrow books. I have attempted to read other genres, and when I did just recently, the fulfillment of finishing is just not as great as that with the books that I really like. This is not to say that anything that is not literary is not good. It’s just not me.
And although I am not a geeky reader, I am a geek by heart. Geekiness is not exclusive to science fiction, comic books, and such stuff that the stereotype geek is caught reading. My being a geek is something that is innate, something that is more metaphysical.
Which is not my point at all. We have a geeky protagonist to talk about, hence the introduction.
A book that flies from America to Dominican Republic and back and forth, this book is the coming of age tale of Oscar Wao. He is not Chinese, he is a Dominican, a fat Dominican, who is obsessed with everything that he does.
Why is his surname Wao then? That is actually not his surname. It’s just a made up nomenclature that you should find out for yourself. But that does not matter. Oscar Wao, apparently, is not the cool kid in town. His being fat alone is a testament to that. Nothing against fat people, but fatness alone does not give someone extra points in the social game. Not yet, but hopefully it will come soon.
Oscar is in the quest to finish and maybe publish a science fiction that he’s been working on since he realized that writing is a good way to cope up with loneliness. But really, that is just secondary to his life’s mission, and what is his primary mission then?
It is to go out with a girl. A woman. Make her fall in love. And die not a virgin.
Pathetic? Not so. Oscar is both an irksome and endearing character. His stubbornness gets him in all sorts of trouble, but one cannot help rooting for him for all his adventures and misadventures. Certainly, one is most likely expected to experience bloodshed if one is living in a country ruled by an ever present dictator.
Which brings me to point out that this novel is the marriage of Oscar’s tale and Trujillo’s footnotes. The latter may be distracting because they form a story of their own. Some footnotes even cover half a page, so one is prone to losing his way in the plot. It’s up to the reader to disregard them or read them after or read them concurrently. I did the last one because I have this impulse to read everything that is printed in a book.
Oscar’s life is drawn mostly from the Dominican belief of fuku and zafa. There is a curse in their family, but really, is this really the voodoo curse or is the family just plain unfortunate to have been subjected in unlikely circumstances?
And so it goes, Oscar trying to take the curse off. The title gives you a hint on what happened, but really, that is not the point. The journey is far more important than the end. It is a surprising adventure that is filled with hope, despair, the promise of friendship, and that untamed force that keeps us waging for a shot at happiness.
Recently, I met Junot Diaz.
No, we are not friends. We do not know each other. I am just a fan boy having his college mass market edition signed.
Junot Diaz is a fun person. He talks a lot, and he doesn’t have this I-am-the-boss air. His one hour talk about his book and random stuff led me to believe that he is a gregarious person.
And when the moment came for me to have my copy signed, here is the conversation that we had, as far as I can remember it:
J: Hello, I’m Junot.
A: Hi, I’m Angus.
J: Angus. I like that. So. What do you do?
A: Well, I’m a technical writer.
J: Hmm. (looks at me with a measured intensity)
A: Well, it’s not that fun. It’s not the type of writing that you do, like this writing. (points at the book)
J: But what do you want to do?
A: Well, I want to write these things. (points at the books)
J: Try starting by writing what a crazy day today is. Do not worry too much. It will come. It will follow. Okay? (nods nonstop, looks at me like we are in some complicity, that he merely made clear something that I already know)
A: Well, I will think of some way to sustain myself while writing. Thanks, Mr. Diaz.
J: You have a good day, Angus.
Whoops! Looks like I use “well” too much.