My Review | Loud and Incredibly Close

Extremely Loud and Incredibly CloseExtremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book reminded me a little bit of ‘The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time’ in that the narrator gradually dropped hints and secrets throughout the story. The big reveals.

In ‘Loud and Incredibly Close’ the narrator is a nine-year-old named Oskar Schell who finds a key that had belonged to his father who died in the World Trade Center during 9/11 a year ago. The boy goes on a search to see who might more about the key and his father.

Author John Updike felt that this novel was ‘sentimentally watery’ compared to Foer’s first novel, ‘Everything is Illuminated.’ Turns out a lot of critics didn’t care for the narrator, who they described as ‘unbelievable,’ but I liked this novel more than the first. While the precocious narrator may not have been relatable for some readers, perhaps Foer could relate. At the age of eight, he experienced a three-year period where ‘he wanted nothing, except to be outside his own skin’ following a classroom chemical accident. Someone said that the boy behaves, thinks, acts more like a 28-year-old JSF.

Maybe I was able to suspend disbelief better than those critics. I looked it as a book about dealing with loss, coping with grief … “heavy boots” … as Oskar puts it.

I don’t think it’s meant to be non-fiction; it’s more fable.

“(Foer) serves up a smorgasbord of symbolic oddities. Oskar’s grandfather mysteriously loses the power of speech and communicates only on notepads; his wife goes blind and types hundreds of pages of her life story onto a ribbonless typewriter. The 101-year-old journalist upstairs is deaf, and reduces all 20th-century history to single-word filing cards. And so on and so on. This book is a linguistically sophisticated fable, and 9/11 is a smokescreen obscuring its true nature.” – The Guardian

The author uses a visual storytelling style. Maybe that bothered some people. Perhaps a little too precious. Lots of pictures of a variety of things, including doorknobs. Lots of pages with just a phrase or sentence. The last pages of the book act like a flipbook of still images of a man falling from the World Trade Center, but when you flip the pages, he floats upwards.

“Inauthentic though Foer’s creations may seem, they are suffused with a profound sadness for things lost, a yearning to reconstitute a shattered past, to retrieve the irretrievable, repair the irreparable, express the inexpressible. In this he is as sincere and committed as he needs to be.” – The Guardian

Oskar is haunted by phone messages left by his father on the family’s answering machine, which are revealed throughout the book. Since I mentioned John Updike, I should also probably mention that Salman Rushdie called the book “extremely moving.”

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