Home and sane thanks in part to my new friend, Olive

Olive KitteridgeOlive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I sat stuck in Stockholm airport for 7 hours with Olive Kitteridge, and boy was I glad she was on hand! It’s a moving, funny, smart book that made me feel all warm and tender inside and also toughened up to face the often cruel, lonely world. It is xpertly structured with a series of short stories all of which include or reference Olive. Most work well on their own and they all work well together.

After writing about Olive Kitteridge, it got me thinking about another fiction hero I recently encountered, Oscar Wao. Not nearly as saucy as Olive, Oscar is a stand out character, a Latino nerd for the new millennium.

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

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

In spite of the obnoxious reading Junot Diaz gave at AWP this year, I chose to read Oscar Wao. The book is most brilliant because of its structure. The influences of David Foster Wallace with frenetic storytelling and involved footnotes (for Diaz chronicling  Dominican history) enhance this confection of magical realism. I grew weary at times from the neo-hipster voice, but the reward for putting up with it was well worth the trouble. Rich, revealing, daring.

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