Cataloguing Cultural References in 'Oscar Wao'

Of course, that’s part of the beauty of the novel. Diaz’s sexy cartwheeling Spanglish prose drives the story, but at heart, this is a geeky book about a nerdy boy. Oscar’s world sags under his myriad sci-fi inscrutables, heavy badges of geekitude that isolate him from every living girl on his lonely planet. Diaz references hundreds of points of culture, both superstars and blips, and they pour out of nearly every chapter in the book. Only a reader as geeky as Oscar could catch ‘em all, if you will.

Sally Kimball, The Original Heavy

For as long as I can remember I have loved a flavor of the detective story, where there’s a main protagonist and a heavy who backs him/her up. I’ve always read these stories as much for the Heavy, as for the Detective.

A short time ago, Donald Sobol, the creator of the Encyclopedia Brown stories, passed away. What follows is a short, overdue homage to his influence on me, and his introduction of the Heavy to my reading life.

Because the first “Heavy” I ever met was Sobol’s Sally Kimball, partner in crime to Encyclopedia Brown. I just fell in love with their dynamic, the sleuth and the heavy, a deceptively simple relationship with so much depth lurking behind the scenes.

Decades would pass and my favorite crime stories would invariably feature a sleuth and a Heavy. Easy Rawlins and Mouse. Burke and Max. Partnerships that never ceased to enthrall, for reasons I never fully understood why.

Until the moment came a few weeks ago to reflect on Sobol, his world, and Sally. 

Childhood roots, impressions that persist.

Sally, the Original Heavy.


And this was a real crime, sir: because he who has had the luck to be born a character can laugh even at death. He cannot die. The man, the writer, the instrument of the creation will die, but the creation does not die.

The Father, in Six Characters in Search of an Author by Luigi Pirandello

Do you expect me to talk?

No, Mr. Bond. I expect you to die.

James Bond and Auric Goldfinger in Goldfinger

I don’t die. Even if I die, I come back with reincarnation, so I don’t die! 

Jackie Chan, in An Alan Smithee Film: Burn Hollywood Burn

Prepare to become fictional.

Limbo, in Grant Morrison’s Flex Mentallo