(At the end of “The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao”)
Tim: Seriously? I really liked this book, but the final chapter, those couple of pages entitled “The Last Letter” are really bad. It reminded me of the movie Stranger Than Fiction, where the author played by Emma Thompson changes the ending to her book so Will Ferrell’s character won’t die. The literary scholar played by Dustin Hoffman hates the change, says it severely damages the book as a whole. I’m not quite so extreme on this case, but the end of the book seemed so perfect without it. There’s the bit talking about Oscar’s copy of Watchmen, which concludes with “ ‘In the end? Nothing ends, Adrian. Nothing ever ends.’ “ As on-the-nose as that admittedly is, that felt like the real ending of the book, or at least the one it should have had.
Debby: I can’t say I was a huge fan, either. Although, I did like how he paralleled “one last chapter” with the “one last box” that randomly shows up from Oscar. He probably wasn’t too thrilled get another abrupt reminder of Oscar’s brief life so out of the blue. We, as the reader, experienced this randomness along with the narrator. Or maybe he was making yet another Lord of the Rings reference? Remember how the Return of the King film had like dozen “endings”. Come on and finish it already!
Tim: Yeah, that’s where my mind went, too, although the movie is waaaay more guilty of doing it badly than the book, and Oscar wasn’t alive for that. I guess I buy the randomness parallel, but it still seemed like a bad decision on the author’s part, and one of only a very few. Structurally, the whole middle of the book where we learn about Beli’s life still didn’t do a whole lot for me other than make her childrens’ stories more interesting and nuanced, but it was still interesting enough on its own that I didn’t really mind.
Debby: The narrative itself was certainly odd. I enjoyed all the character development, but the story felt so rocky, jumping between time and persons. It never particularly bothered me, as I felt the book was still interesting, I just don’t think it ever really gained momentum until the end because the chapters never picked up where the last one left off.
Tim: I think the weirdest part for me was having Lola’s chapters in first person. The rest of the book felt like it was narrated by Yunior, but by the end I was questioning whether I should think of the book as a collaboration between Yunior and Lola.
Debby: I honestly hadn’t put those two things together. I think that since they’re the only remaining members of the cast, they’re left putting all the pieces together. I could see Yunior asking Lola to write her story and incorporating it into his tale of Oscar… And that also explains why they had to be at least amicable in the later years. Although, it’s kind of weird how connected he feels to Lola’s daughter?
Tim: Hmmm I like that interpretation/explanation. And I guess the thing with her daughter is kind of strange, but less so when you take into account the interconnectedness of their cultural communities. I don’t know, that felt very natural for me. I believed Lola would trust Yunior with her daughter, especially after his marriage seems to have reformed him (somewhat).
Debby: Hmm.. I’ll take your word for it. Think we’ve hashed this book out quite well.