I used to sporadically keep a blog called “What I Took Away” where I’d write down my thoughts on a book I just read or a movie I’d just seen so I could revisit them later. I’ve decided to simplify things and just write about that stuff here now. So here ya go.
I just finished reading The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz. I’d heard good things about Diaz and the book, so when I found it for $3 at a used book store, I bought it. It’s the first book I’ve read in a long time that I didn’t want to put down. Diaz’s voice is totally unique and engaging. He’s writing in a style that is completely his own. Oscar Wao is a nerd, a bookworm, a hopeless and tragically misguided romantic, a Dominican-American, and a lot of other things. I suspect Diaz is a lot of those things himself, and he unapologetically incorporates every bit of it into his writing. He writes in English and a little bit of Spanish, he mixes language you might here walking down a block in the Bronx with Oscar’s extensive vocabulary and references to Battlestar Galactica. He describes his characters and their reality in such a unique and vivid way they can’t help but take shape in your mind. For instance, he describes a neighbor lady a prepubescent Oscar was infatuated with as “a thirty-something postal employee who wore red on her lips and walked like she had a bell for an ass.” He sprinkles in real Dominican history with some good ol’ fashioned mysticism.
It’s a good, interesting read. It’s engaging because it is so unique. My takeaway from The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao is to strive to bring my own originality to my creative endeavors. I have a tendency to worry about what other people will think about my work as I’m working. I think a lot of people do that, especially if they’re being paid to create something. I’ve written sketches and taken on projects because I thought they’d appeal to the general public or because a boss thought it might go viral or at least get some clicks. That stuff fades away and gets forgotten almost instantly. I think if you want to make something that people enjoy or at least find interesting, you should strive to make things that capture what is unique, honest and interesting to you.