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The 21st Century’s 12 greatest novels

Junot Díaz, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao (2007)

by Jane Ciabattari | BETWEEN THE LINES  | 19 January 2015  |  BBC Culture

1. Junot Díaz, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao (2007)

The winner in this BBC Culture critics’ poll is Junot Diaz’s first novel, about New Jersey ghetto-nerd Oscar, who dreams of being the Dominican-American Tolkien and finding love. It also was named as the number-one book by the most critics. “It is a big deal for me to fall in love with a book when its DNA is science fiction, fantasy and testosterone,” says Elizabeth Taylor, The Chicago Tribune’s literary editor-at-large. “This was only the second book by a Latino author to receive the Pulitzer Prize in fiction,” notes critic and author Rigoberto Gonzalez. “Oscar Wao reaffirmed the strong connections Latinos maintain with their ancestral homeland’s culture, language and history. It also re-energised these questions: Who is American? What is the American experience?” Critic and playwright Gregg Barrios concurs, “Díaz’s deft mash-up of Dominican history, comics, sci-fi, magic realism and footnotes totally rocks. Nerdy Oscar and the book’s macho narrator Yunior resonate as authentically as Roth’s Portnoy, Updike’s Rabbit, Bellow’s Augie or Toole’s Ignatius.” (Riverhead)

 

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