To return to that novel, which emerged out of an eleven-year storm of creativity, was to return to the self and the time that made the book possible. The process of annotation reminded me of the immense debt I owe to all the books, movies, TV shows and comics that inspired the project and sustained me in its execution. A book is in part a memory of other books, and what I’ve tried to accomplish in this annotation is to recover the secret traces of that memory.
First edition. The extensive, ebullient annotations are a running commentary on the book, its reception by fans, Díaz’s thoughts on politics, culture (high and low); and his own life story: “I grew up with a lot of Trujillo in my family. My first years in the DR Trujillo floated over everything. The pull of his long rule not yet dispersed…” “I was one of those Dominicans who didn’t go back to the island for almost 20 years so Oscar’s reaction was in part mine…” “I was a nerd myself growing up but Oscar was beyond me, that category taken to its extreme.” On growing up in New Jersey: “NJ never gets enough love. And the Jersey Latino community is doubly erased. Wanted to respond to that.” On his technique: “To understand a regime as nuts as the Trujillo one cannot but reach for the fantastic. Realism in the face of third world dictators is not enough.” We learn that in earlier drafts the title was “Kilometer Zero.” Many notes lavish praise on his pop culture heroes such as Willie Colón: “For a whole generation one of the baddest musicians around.” Other famous names elicit mixed emotions: “When the Apocalypse hits the DR the only book to survive will probably be a [Paul] Coehlo they are so ubiquitous.” When he mentions the torture of an 8 a.m. MLA panel – “endless” – he writes: I’ve sat through these panels. Believe me I do not exaggerate.” There are mentions of the Fantastic Four, Stephen King, and E-Bay. The annotations—by our estimate well over 2,000 words–comprise their own wondrous world. “I still tear up when I read this line,” Díaz writes alongside: “All we ever talk about is Oscar.” Díaz “finished this book in May 2007. But before I could really enjoy it the weight of the 11 years came down on me. But that’s another story.”
DÍAZ, Junot 9b. 1968). The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. New York: Riverhead Books, 2007. 8°. Original white cloth; dust jacket.