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Publisher Description

FROM THE MARVELOUS ACCOUNTS OF FIRST ENCOUNTERS BETWEEN EUROPEAN explorers and the peoples of the "New World" to the spectacular success of writers like Jorge Luis Borges and Gabriel Garcia Marquez closer to our own time, Latin America has long been associated with a rich tradition of fantastic literature. Junot Diaz's recent novel, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, clearly picks up on this tradition. The novel, which recounts the unfortunate experiences of its Dominican-American protagonist and his family both during and after the Trujillo era in the Dominican Republic, opens with a long digression about "fuku," a traditional Dominican curse of supernatural bad luck that would fit comfortably in any Garcia Marquez story. Other magical realist touches in the novel include the uncannily accurate premonitions of Oscar's sister Lola, their grandmother's seemingly supernatural ability to sense and affect events from afar through the sheer force of her prayers, and most prominently, a spectral, golden-eyed mongoose that miraculously appears to aid both Oscar and his mother, Beli, during the moments of their greatest pain and danger. At the same time, however, Diaz's book is clearly not a typical magical realist novel. Indeed, critics have commented on the impressive variety of genres or forms that Diaz deploys to tell his story. A. O. Scott, for example, describes the novel as an "unruly multitude of styles and genres" which includes "a young-adult melodrama draped over a multigenerational immigrant family chronicle that dabbles in tropical magic realism, punk-rock feminism, hip-hop machismo, [and] post-postmodern pyrotechnics." With particular reference to the place of fantasy in his writing, Scott compares Diaz to other contemporary American authors like Jonathan Lethem, Dave Eggers, and Michael Chabon who also use "comic books, sword-and-sorcery novels, science fiction, [and] role-playing games" to "infuse their ambitious, difficult stories with some of the allegorical pixie dust and epic grandiloquence the genres offer." While Scott sees this as part of the charm of the novel, Henry Wessells takes some issue with Diaz's narrative eclecticism. Although Wessells finds much to like about Diaz's book, which he considers at least partly "written within the genre," he argues that rather than using sf to develop the plot of his novel, Diaz primarily uses the genre as a badge for Oscar's nerd identity: "[F]inally, all the genre allusions in Oscar's life and death are so many bars of a freak-show cage in which Oscar is put on display" (11).

Professional & Technical
January 1
The International Association for the Fantastic in the Arts
The Gale Group, Inc., a Delaware corporation and an affiliate of Cengage Learning, Inc.