The Brief Wondrous Vacation of Matt Eilar

This particular journey has not been as treacherous nor as long as others in this post, but it did involve some self-discovery, heartbreak, hope, and despair.
It started on a couch (one of my favorite places in the world) as I was watching the Colbert Report on June 18th. Junot Diaz was promoting his Pulitzer Prize-winning first novel, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. Now, I try and be an independent thinker, but I am just as susceptible to the NYT bestseller, highbrow literature, “it” book marketing tools as everybody else. So, I thought to myself, I’ll have to pick that up next time I’m in a bookstore…I was flying through Las Vegas (where I got truly the most pitiful excuse for a meal I have ever put in my mouth from an airport Burger King franchise, but that’s another story) and the book caught my eye in a Hudson News. I bought it, and was immediately sucked into the suburban exile of Oscar Wao through the strong voice of Junot Diaz. He has a true talent for keeping you interested not solely through the plot, but the telling of it.
The book is part informal history of the Dominican Republic, and half a character study of an overweight, sci-fi/fantasy loving, suburban, Dominican teenager, Oscar. Oscar, through geography and genetics, temperament and taste, is an exile from the dominant and subordinate cultures that surround him. All at once, we pity him, sympathize with him, understand him, are perplexed by him, and ultimately are surprised by him. As Diaz explains in the above Colbert interview, there is more than a little Junot in Oscar, and that honesty and affection show through the prose.
In my typical fashion, however, all it ignited in me was a wave of nostalgia for the rather shitty fantasy and sci-fi that I read when I was younger. One summer when I was eleven, my uncle gave me his stash of Ace and Tor fantasy books, about 45 books in all. I read them all that summer. I hadn’t thought about them in years, mostly because that genre is not generally to my taste (although at that age I would read literally anything that made its way into my hands). After reading “Oscar,” I had an overwhelming desire to read something with mages. The more the merrier. And there must be an evil sorcerer king.
So, with that in mind, I bought Innocent Mage and Mage Awakened by Karen Miller. And felt like the innocent victim here was me, not the mage. Terribly stilted dialogue, although I later found out that the author is Australian, maybe that’s just the way that they talk. Horrible pacing, forgettable characters. I found myself 600 pages into the cycle not caring at all about anything in the book. Terrible.
Well, after that terrible experience, I had to cleanse the palate with a full watchthrough of the Lord of the Rings Trilogy: Special Edition. I think that the special features DVDs, along with Pixar’s The Incredibles, contain so much valuable information for anyone interested in making movies, or organizing substantial collaborative art.
And that’s where my brief, wondrous journey ended. Back on the couch watching TV.
The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao 7/10
Kingmaker, Kingbreaker series 1.25/10
LOTR:SE 10/10
The Incredibles 10/10

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