Jonathan Safran Foer is an unjustly gifted author. He’s one of those writers that makes me want to eat paper; the kind that make me sense that my own writing couldn’t attain such heights, but that every word he wrote was meant directly for me. His style reminds me of a more publicly palatable (read: approachable) Milan Kundera.
Oddly, I began reading Everything is Illuminated after I watched the movie, because it was one of the rare films that hit me where I live – which is to say that I actually identified with very little in it, but that it managed to make me feel like it was mine. Or should have been.
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close is another one of those. It’s a book that I wouldn’t think I’d like, based purely on its subject matter. But I adored Everything is Illuminated, so I gave it a shot. It was awfully wonderful. Of course, now it’s a movie, too.
Oscar Schell is a precocious nine year-old inventor, dealing with the loss of his father during the 9/11 tragedy. He searches for the lock that goes with a key he found among his father’s things, labeled only “Black.” Readers piggyback along as he meets everyone possible with the name Black, learning a little about all of their lives.
Foer masterfully blends the stories of two generations of the Schell family into one cohesive whole, alternating between first person scenes and wildly sweeping letters with an overabundance of commas written from people to whom words are the most valuable –yet priceless- thing.
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close is more than a story about 9/11; it’s a story about living through loss. It’s a story about searching. Don’t let the heavy subject matter dissuade you from cracking the cover. This book isn’t depressing. At a few points, it had me LOLing.
These 368 pages pack a powerfully evocative punch that imbues readers with a sense of hopefulness in loss. 4 stars.
For more of his work, check out the new television series pilot with Ben Stiller on HBO!