Thursday, September 24, 2009

book reviews

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Díaz

My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I won this book on a blog giveaway which claimed it was the single best book the person had read. I believe she even claimed it was life changing. I love book recommendations and I'm generally a pretty easy audience as long as the book has movement but I stalled out several times with this one. The writing is good, the story is interesting but for whatever reason it just didn't grab me. Normally I thoroughly enjoy diving into another culture, a different perspective on life but this one didn't take. Not that I disliked the culture or perspective, just that it did not reel me in. Instead, I felt like an outsider - as if I wasn't urban enough and didn't know enough Dominican slang to follow. It is also quite vulgar, seemingly, just for the sake of being extremely vulgar. The somewhat omniscient narrator for the bulk of the novel (though other voices take over at times) is an unapologetic player who views the world as all being motivated by sex. And that is essentially the novel. If you have sex - you are living. If you are a virgin, your life is not worth living because you are a loser.

All that being said, there was something about Diaz' writing that pulled me back in, even after abandoning the book a couple of times. I ultimately picked it back up and enjoyed it. Maybe my initial lack of interest was a timing problem, I don't know.

Ultimately, I think this book was hyped up so much that I started into it with too high of expectations. Once I dropped those expectations and just accepted it for what it is, I actually liked it. Mostly. Although, I would have preferred that the author drop the arrogant, often condescending tone. Lesson learned: don't let the hype get to you.

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Downtown Owl: A Novel Downtown Owl: A Novel by Chuck Klosterman

My rating: 3 of 5 stars
What I liked best about Klosterman's novel is that is essentially a string of character studies that overlap and intertwine. Klosterman sketches out the various characters using back stories of their nick-names, descriptions of the homes they inhabit, the music they listen to and peeking into their thoughts at random to stand in as actual plot and action. While the book feels as if it is building toward an event that never happens, I can't say that I was disappointed with the ending. Had I paid more attention to the hints in the beginning, I probably would have realized where the characters were heading.

Despite the book's focus on a few key characters, I cannot say I was emotionally intertwined with how their stories ultimately played out. The author only took one character to a deeper level but I don't think I realized that until the book abruptly ended.

I would recommend the book to others for the excellent character studies. Although I think Klosterman's female character was the weakest.

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1 comment:

Kelly S. said...

My book group read this six months ago. I liked it. The book does seem to abruptly end. I remember reading the last page and thinking "really? that's it? really?" And whatever happened with the horndog teacher. The author spends all this time going into his life and his conquests and even what other characters think about him, and then he is just dropped from the story. I think your rating of a 3 out of 5 is very accurate. Kudos!

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