Wao, It’s Wonderful.
The Author: Junot Diaz.
The Title: The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao.
The title. It is all in the title. That singular word–“Wondrous.” A word so closely associated with the positive, with the–not surprisingly–wonderful. But hold on, that’s not what it is. The word’s “wonderous,” not “wonderful.” Literally, filled with wonder. A much more ambiguous word. Just ’cause Oscar’s story’s “wonderous” doesn’t make it “wonderful.” We all know that. And if you’ve read the book, you know his life is anything but wonderful. Something about dying and no sex and getting beat up, an obsession with sci-fi, comic books, a life alone.
Here it is–a story about how one man, one person so marginalized, can touch you, can be the center. That’s it. Oscar’s a dork. We get it. Not a single friend. He’s peripheral to everyone. Except of course to us–to us, he is in the middle of the story precisely because he’s at the edge. And that almost makes sense–two extremes as one. The margins as a focal point. It is, dare I say, wondrous.
And somehow his story is tragic and romantic and sad and happy. Extremes coming together.
The title. Wondrous. What are other words like that?
Oscar. The center. “Their eyes are his.” He, Lola’s college boyfriend, keeps Oscar’s stuff, his comics, his writings. His essays. Oscar is the connection between them, these other characters. They only talk of him. Her child has his eyes. He is a tio. He had uncles when he was young; now he is one of of those. He is the center of all of these characters, of the whole story. Of the title.
The ending. It looks forward and that makes it somehow mythical, sci-fi-cal. (Get it–Oscar’s obsessed with that kind of stuff.) You see, we learn that the daughter will come and she will ask about her family and that is happy and she will hear about the sadness and Oscar and the fuku and that is sad. Note the tense.
The ending. And it is sad and happy. (Stop reading if you haven’t read it!) We learn of Oscar’s death and his transcendence and that is almost enough but it is all still tragic and sad and painful. Then. Then we hear that he did it—literally did it—and he had sex and he fulfilled his quest (sci-fi, again!) and he is the hero (sci-fi) and there is love and it was real.
And it was beautiful.
“The beauty! The beauty!” And with all the references and culture and the etc. how can that not be a reference to Conrad’s “the horror, the horror.” But here it is beautiful and here the tragedy is amazing and sweet and, again, dare I say “wondrous.”
The title. And so maybe the title is “wondrous” in the wonderful sense and the impression is true and the complications are false and over-read and over literal. Wonderous. Ous. Filled with wonder. Wonderful.
And in tragedy there is beauty and that’s that.
The beauty, the beauty. The fat ugly kid. The beauty, the beauty.