A Question of Oscar Wao and Literary Fiction


The French Writer Gustave Flaubert once wrote “A man is a critic when he cannot be an artist, in the same way a man is an informant when he can’t be a good soldier.”  So, given the fact that I am a writer and an artist, might it give me liscence to be a critic?  Perhaps so, but in either event I still want to make this piece known.

A while back, while I was in college, I had “read” or rather was instructed to read this book “The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao” after I finished I was asked to write an essay about it and I used that essay in my review at Amazon and I also want to write it down here.

“Some may call me a typical geek but I really don’t understand how a book like this gets the attention and praise of critics. Just seems that whenever it’s a book about real life and people doing nothing that somehow we’re supposed to come away with some deep meaning about life itself. When really the story of Oscar Wao seems to be one long drawn out reason of why suicide seems to be such a better option.

And really if one were to want to read that then I say read Chuck Palahniuk. At least then he’ll lay out those observations in front of you.

The title “The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao” is already suspect of either being ironic or just being a really bad joke on Junot Diaz’ part.  For a start we have Oscar Wao whose life seems to be a never-ending road of misery, pain, and suffering. Starting with the obvious of how he is made fun of given the fact that he is overweight up through where his love of “the genres” makes him an easy target by his peers and classmates.

Then there are the “relationships” that he’s had which always seem to turn out badly. Such as the beginning where he’s in love with two girls (Maritza Chacón and Olga Polanco) at once and up through Ana whom he tries to “protect” from her physically abusive boyfriend.

One would think that after that he would have learned what a temporary insanity love can be.

Given all the events that Oscar has had to endure through the course of the tedious 335 pages maybe it is a good thing that he died in the first place. After all if life is going to be that bad then why live through it? Though it is a shame that Oscar, in his readings, never read the philosopher Fredrich Nietzsche otherwise he might have gotten a greater warning or heads up on how miserable life can be and is going to get, especially in his case given what the author puts him through until his death at the end of the book.

All in all, never since “Twilight” by Stephanie Meyer had I been asked to read a more teeth-grinding read of a book.”

As I mentioned before with how in literary fiction there is the recurring theme of ordinary people doing ordinary things and coming away with an exestiantial epiphany about the meaning of life, the more I thought about this, the more it occurred to me that literary fiction like this is really just Reality TV dressed up as art.  Yet, for some reason, whenever an author’s work is put out, they are given their ISBN stamp and some self-important media type who tells everyone what to think says that this book is great and that the author is a genius, somehow everyone else is supposed to follow suit and anyone who doesn’t is “small minded”.

And so, I leave with this question:  what is the real point of fiction?  To make ourselves feel better about our own reality or just to try to get away from it?


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