Genre shaping fiction


The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar WaoUm, I have to think through the logic of this a little (always part of the magic), but I really like the way Junot Díaz plays around with genre fiction in the creation of his character, Oscar Wao – one of those mirror in the mirror type constructions. The concept of genre shapes the character and the story, but then it also puts the shape of the story (its identity, if you will) in question… twisty. Consider the following moments in the book:

“I’m not entirely sure Oscar would have liked this designation. Fukú story. He was a hardcore sci-fi and fantasy man, believed that that was the kind of story we were all living in. He’d ask: What more sci-fi than the Santo Domingo? What more fantasy than the Antilles?
But now that I know how it all turns out, I have to ask, in turn: What more fukú?” (p.6)

…”anytime a fukú reared its many heads there was only one way to prevent disaster from coiling around you, only one surefire counterspell that would keep you and your family safe. Not surprisingly, it was a word. A simple word (followed usually by a vigorous crossing of index fingers).
…Even now as I write these words I wonder if this book ain’t a zafa of sorts. My very own counterspell.” (p.7)

The brief wondrous life of oscar wao“You really want to know what being an X-Man feels like? Just be a smart bookish boy of color in a contemporary U.S. ghetto. Mamma mia! Like having a pair of wings or a pair of tentacles growing out of your chest!” (p.22)

“What can I tell you? In Santo Domingo a story is not a story unless it casts a supernatural shadow.” (pp.245-246)

Ref: Junot Díaz (2008) The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. faber and faber: London
[winner of the 2008 Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award]

The critics agree about the success of this blending:

“Diaz finds a miraculous balance. He cuts his barnburning comic-book plots (escape, ruin, redemption) with honest, messy realism, and his narrator speaks in a dazzling hash of Spanish, English, slang, literary flourishes, and pure virginal dorkiness.”–Sam Anderson, “New York Magazine”

“Funny, street-smart and keenly observed…An extraordinarily vibrant book that’s fueled by adrenaline-powered prose.”–Michiko Kakutani, “New York Times” (interesting metaphor!)