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The family in question emigrated from the Dominican Republic and consists of a mother, a son and a daughter the father having done a runner some years earlier. "Oscar was a social introvert who trembled with fear during gym class and who watched nerd British shows like Doctor Who and Blake's 7, could tell you the difference between a Veritech fighter and a Zentraedi walker, and he used a lot of huge-sounding nerd words like indefatigable and ubiquitous when talking to niggers who would barely graduate from high school." Oscar is fat and shy and amazingly enough doesn't have a lot of luck with the ladies. His sister Lola is slender and sexy and headstrong but in her own way almost as lost as Oscar. Their mother Beli is a domineering nightmare who brought along her own crushing load of psychic luggage when she fled Dominican dictator Rafael Trujillo, a paranoid serial rapist whose lengthy, stifling reign has cursed generations of Oscar's family. "He was our Sauron, our Arawn, our Darkseid, our Once and Future Dictator," Díaz writes, "a personaje so outlandish, so perverse, so dreadful that not even a sci-fi writer could have made his ass up."
Díaz has written Oscar Wao (a mishearing of "Oscar Wilde") in a mongrel argot of his devising, a mixture of straight-up English, Dominican Spanish and hieratic nerdspeak crowded with references to Tolkien, DC Comics, role-playing games and classic science fiction. ("What more sci-fi than the Santo Domingo?" Oscar asks, "What more fantasy than the Antilles?") In lesser hands Oscar Wao would merely have been the saddest book of the year. With Díaz on the mike, it's also the funniest. As Oscar and Lola grow up and go to college, they find themselves fighting the lingering dooms of the old country, the alien demands of New Jersey and the depredations of their romantic hearts, all at the same time. It's an unwinnable three-front war, and the outcome isn't a fantasy; it's brutal reality. "You know exactly what kind of world we live in," Díaz writes. "It ain't no f___ing Middle-earth."
Next Schulz and Peanuts