Sunday, February 03, 2008

Book Number 1: The Brief Life Of Oscar Wao

Junot Diaz should hire me as his publicist. People left my forum at AWP either convinced or not a little disturbed by my proclaiming that the Brief Wondrous Life Of Oscar Wao may very well be the first true twenty-first century novel. It's not the first novel to celebrate its own post modern geekiness or to revel in its polyglot intensity ( Gautam Malkani's Londonstani achieved pretty much the same thing), but it is certainly the first novel in decades to point to a direction that fiction from the diaspora can and maybe should go. I wrote a humongous article on this already for the Caribbean Review of books and have no desire to repeat myself, but I really think that Diaz found a way to back flip to the past, leap frog into the future with only passing references to the present. And whenever that happened the present in usually what's being said on the street right now, not a liberal pseudo-hip re-imagining of ghetto speak, but real urban language.

And when the novel isn't talking loudly (which is 80% of the time) it literally sings. Or raps. Or beatboxes. Or toasts. Or spits wicked Spanglish without translation. It took twenty two years for English speaking people to give us the first true twentieth century novel, but now that we have a candidate a mere eight years in, could literature's prospects be finally looking up?