Fellow Gigglers, let me be clear: This is not a book review column. I’m not going to seek out the newest hardcovers and tell you whether or not to buy them. Partly because we have our own tastes, but mostly because I don’t read many books that are too new to be in paperback. I can support the industry without taking out a mortgage.
While not the Sunday Review, this Sunday blog will explore my brilliant and fascinating thoughts about books. Please use the comments section to share your own thoughts on this book, or whatever you’re reading.
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer made me cry on more than one occasion while commuting to work on the subway. Perhaps that’s not so shocking, given the book is about a young boy whose father died in 9/11. (This is not a spoiler—it’s the premise of the book!)
Don’t worry, the whole book isn’t sad, just moments. The protagonist, Oskar, a 9-year-old-going-on-40, is on a treasure hunt. He finds a key in an old vase that belonged to his father, and he traverses the city looking for someone who can tell him what it opens.
Oskar is one of those kids who are intelligent beyond their years, but he’s hopelessly immature with kids his own age. He writes letters to Stephen Hawking, befriends an aged man in his Manhattan apartment building and the person he’s closest to is his grandmother.
This might all feel contrived—because how do you write about an eccentric kid’s experience of 9/11 without it sounding forced?—but it doesn’t. Foer’s gift is in story-telling, and Oskar’s journey is contrasted with the story of his grandparents’ past from the time they met shortly before the World War II firebombing in Dresden, to their reunion in New York, to the present day.
What I enjoyed most was seeing the world through the eyes of a child who wears all white and carries a tambourine everywhere he goes. He also walkie-talkies from his bedroom with his grandmother across the street. When he’s upset or can’t sleep, he invents things in his mind. The idea of someday having a kid like Oskar, especially post-tragedy Oskar (who also gives himself “bruises”) is daunting. It’s hard to tell exactly how much his mother understands him sometimes, since we’re seeing his point of view, but she’s more in the know than Oskar realizes as most parents are.
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close is now a movie, and I’ve heard good things. But one of the talents of the book for me was its visual nature. Not because of excessive description, but because the world Foer wrote is highlighted in the right spots to give me a vivid look at Oskar’s Manhattan. And I liked what I saw. So to see a different Oskar onscreen living in a different apartment would be sort of like coming home to someone else’s belongings. Did anyone have that experience, or was the movie what you imagined when reading the book? If you’ve already seen the movie, I would imagine reading the book will only improve the story. I’m not anti-movie, I’m just pro-book!
What did you think of the book? If you read Foer’s first book, Everything is Illuminated, which did you like better? They’re different in a lot of ways, so it’s tough to compare.