My Thoughts on Jonathan Safran Foer, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

"We need much bigger pockets, I thought as I lay in bed, counting off the seven minutes that it takes a normal person to fall asleep. We need enormous pockets, pockets big enough for our families, and our friends, and even the people who aren't on our lists, people we've never met but still want to protect. We need pockets for boroughs and for cities, a pocket that could hold the universe."

This is my first time reading Jonathan Safran Foer, even though I have heard from many readers that they like Everything is Illuminated better.  I can say that I loved Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close.  It is the kind of postmodern novel that can piss readers off.  There are shifting narrative voices, and some additions to the text that could be construed as "gimmicky" (in quotes because I saw it in another review, and I can't remember whose).  I am not bothered at all by these things in this book.  I only find them annoying ever, in fact, if they disturb my reading in a way that feels utterly useless.  Not only were they not useless in this book, they didn't disturb my reading a bit.

The novel is set shortly after 9/11, and tells the story of a family who has lost a member in that tragedy.  The story is told from the point of view of three characters:  9-year-old Oscar Schell, his grandmother and his grandfather.  After his father's death, Oscar is searching for the last remnants of him by looking to find the lock for a key that he has left in his closet.  His father had been in the habit of sending Oscar on adventures, and he thinks that he has left this last one for him.  And so he takes his only clue, the word Black written on the front of the envelope the key is in, and starts paying a visit to every person with the last name Black in the New York Metropolitan area.  This is just one storyline, there are others.

But all the stories are connected.  They are all about loss- about losing things and finding them again.  They are about love, and mystery, and family, and tragedy.  I was impressed by the incredible tenderness and feeling with which Foer treated his characters, which, for me, stood out far more than any of the whimsical touches (the photographs, the colored text, etc.)  And in the end, I found hope, and beauty, and that is one of the reasons why I read.

Title: Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
Author: Jonathan Safran Foer
Publisher: Mariner Books
Date: 2005
Genre: Literary Fiction

326 pages.
Where I got it: Bought it at Bookman's
Challenges: Mount TBR Challenge (Woohoo!)

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  1. I haven't read this one, but I did really enjoy Everything is Illuminated. I just finished his non-fiction book Eating Animals, so if I read Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, I'll have read his life's work! (So far--I hope he publishes something else soon!)

    Great review!

    1. Thanks Rayna. I really want to read Eating Animals, but I'm pretty sure I'll be disturbed.

  2. I didn't mind the shifting narratives at all in this book (in fact, in general I'm a big fan of them) and I LOVED the writing, but my big problem with it was Oscar- I didn't think he was believable as a character, and frankly he pissed me off, and I felt really bad for being pissed off with him because, you know, his dad was dead and all. So, yeah, it was a tough one for me, although I think I came down on the side of liking it. Mostly.

    1. I've heard other readers say that didn't like Oscar as well. I don't really mind when characters aren't believable, so that doesn't tend to be on my radar. I thought Oscar was consistent, so that was good enough for me.

  3. Thanks for stopping by. That is quite the list of entries. Whoever wins is super lucky:)


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