Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
January 19th 2008 09:35
The 2nd book I've read this year is Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer, a pre-eminent Jewish writer and possible all-round genius of literature. This book was awesome. I read it in two days flat... which is no mean feat, but I happened to be working both days and I had other stuff on so in order to read it all so quickly I had to use every spare moment in those two days to breathe this book in like it was the stuff of life. I didn't plan it this way, it just happened. It's that kind of book.
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close occupies a space amongst many other works of post-9/11 literature. Sometimes it seems like 9/11 happened just so all these weighty minds in Serious Fiction Land would have something New and Important to talk about. Obviously I'm not pointing any fingers here or appropriating blame to certain famous authors, I'm just saying, hey, some people have benefited from what happened on September 11. Art lives off this kind of stuff. This book is far from the least amongst this trend, and it manages to be very funny without diminishing the tragedy in any way whatsoever.
Basically, it's the story of this 9 year old kid and he's a weird genius/possible Aspergers candidate (he plays the tambourine and writes letters to Stephen Hawking and Ringo Starr). Anyway, his dad dies in the trade centre during 9/11 and the kid finds an envelope in his dad's closet with the name Black on it and so he decides to go and visit every person with the name Black in New York. It's very cool. Mixed up between this story are the voices of two other characters, both very distinct and different from our narrating hero, but equally as intrinsic to the story and his life. To reveal any more of the book to you would be to spoil it and I'm not in a spoiling mood, so JUST GO READ IT. RIGHT NOW.
Oh, you're still here?
Well, did I mention how cool this book is? Foer employs all kinds of narrative quirks and gimmicky devices to keep the book cracking along (as well as significant photographs), and it's through his use of these unusual techniques that he manages to create something above common fiction - something of real substance - without sacrificing any story or entertainment value. As such, it was pretty much a unique reading experience for me... I've never read a book like it (duh, that's what unique means!) So if you pick this book up and read all the superlative gushing on the cover about it being incredibly moving and extremely funny... well, do not take it for publishing company-paid propaganda, it happens to be very true in this case!
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