Sunday, December 6, 2009

A Good Book

Finished Oscar Wao last night. Ran through the gamut of emotions I experience when near the end any book I really enjoy: the exhilaration of being on the precipice, of following a thread to its frayed end; the sadness of letting characters (read: people) go; the inescapable satisfaction of setting aside the book-mark, closing the book and putting it on the nightstand, turning the light and laying there in the dark with those characters still thrumming in your head.

With this book there was something else, and it may just be where I am right now (here comes the self-indulgence, the self-centeredness I'm so prone to on this space), but I desperately wanted to weep for Oscar, for Lola, for Beli. You could argue there's some light in Diaz's ending, there's certainly beauty (!), but there's also (for me) a sense of overwhelming sadness. I could feel it--I was ready to burst, to have the dog tilt his head at me for crying at the plights of fictional characters, but then I'd really be crying for myself (again: me, me, me): the rollercoaster of losing a parent young, the way a love can end without resolution, can haunt: all this baggage tattooed with self-pity.

I've heard people say that good books bring us closer to ourselves. And they may. They can also draw us back, turn us into satellites orbitting our own clusterfuck of misplaced emotion and ill-spent angst. So I was ready to sob: pillow poised in hand, incense smoking through the room, the silence on blast, running back through mom's chemo, the end of my engagement last spring. And I waited. The dog got up, circled, resettled. The incense burned out. I picked up the book, re-read the last 10 pages. Nothing.

Talk about anti-climax.

So I turned on the TV, hoping to see the score of the Texas-Nebraska game. And the Blues Brothers was on. They were singing "Everybody Needs Somebody to Love." Just Dan Akroyd and John Belushi having some silly fun while John Candy nods his head. And god-dammit if I didn't cry like a baby. It took a confluence of Domincan tragedy and Chicago shenanigans, but hell if the world didn't reach out and wrench me around again. And after, the world has grown a little wider, and I'm reminded of what I already knew: everybody, you me and Oscar, needs somebody to love. (You, you, you.)

"So this is what everybody's always talking about! Diablo! If only I'd known. The beauty! The beauty!"

-from Junot Diaz's "The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao"



JayTee said...

awww...beautiful post. i still need to finish that book. now i'm really excited for christmas break so I can finish it!

Matthew said...

great post. I'm adding that book to my list now.

Marcus said...

Yeah, what a great novel...and I agree, the ending was incredibly sad. (Those brutal cane break scenes were as difficult to read as scenes of gratuitous mobster violence in film. Which attests to Diaz's powers of description.)

Drew Perry said...

yeah. oscar wao's the best book i've read since yiddish policemen's union, and it's probably better. i rarely feel like i felt when i read that. nice post.