When Junot Diaz came out with his short story collection Drown, in 1996, the accolades came thick and fast. The New Yorker named Diaz one of the top 20 writers for the 21st century, and his stories were anthologized all over the place.
Rumors and snippets around the new novel have been around for a long time and after blowing through it in a couple days, I'm on board. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao is a smart, hip triumph of a novel on every level. He's New York cool like Lethem, he's got weight like Franzen and Mary Gaitskill he's got precision pyrotechnics like George Saunders. There's no flaws here and he more than delivers on the massive promise in Drown. I haven't been in awe of a writer's craft, while laughing my ass off to this degree in a very long time.
Oscar Wao is a hell of a character, a Dominican Ignatius Reilly. He's fat, he's a dork, and he falls in love with every girl who crosses his path. He's the main character to be sure; but the great strength of the book is that a character of this magnitude doesn't overwhelm the book. The surreal Dominican politics and history, the familial ties and the perfectly nuanced redemption (of sorts) make for one of the best books I've read this year or last.
I'm kinda ruined for other literary fiction for awhile, though Denis Johnson awaits.
Posted by Dave