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Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close Hardcover – April 4, 2005

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Oskar Schell, hero of this brilliant follow-up to Foer's bestselling Everything Is Illuminated, is a nine-year-old amateur inventor, jewelry designer, astrophysicist, tambourine player and pacifist. Like the second-language narrator of Illuminated, Oskar turns his naïvely precocious vocabulary to the understanding of historical tragedy, as he searches New York for the lock that matches a mysterious key left by his father when he was killed in the September 11 attacks, a quest that intertwines with the story of his grandparents, whose lives were blighted by the firebombing of Dresden. Foer embellishes the narrative with evocative graphics, including photographs, colored highlights and passages of illegibly overwritten text, and takes his unique flair for the poetry of miscommunication to occasionally gimmicky lengths, like a two-page soliloquy written entirely in numerical code. Although not quite the comic tour de force that Illuminated was, the novel is replete with hilarious and appalling passages, as when, during show-and-tell, Oskar plays a harrowing recording by a Hiroshima survivor and then launches into a Poindexterish disquisition on the bomb's "charring effect." It's more of a challenge to play in the same way with the very recent collapse of the towers, but Foer gambles on the power of his protagonist's voice to transform the cataclysm from raw current event to a tragedy at once visceral and mythical. Unafraid to show his traumatized characters' constant groping for emotional catharsis, Foer demonstrates once again that he is one of the few contemporary writers willing to risk sentimentalism in order to address great questions of truth, love and beauty.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From School Library Journal

Adult/High School-Oskar Schell is not your average nine-year-old. A budding inventor, he spends his time imagining wonderful creations. He also collects random photographs for his scrapbook and sends letters to scientists. When his father dies in the World Trade Center collapse, Oskar shifts his boundless energy to a quest for answers. He finds a key hidden in his father's things that doesn't fit any lock in their New York City apartment; its container is labeled "Black." Using flawless kid logic, Oskar sets out to speak to everyone in New York City with the last name of Black. A retired journalist who keeps a card catalog with entries for everyone he's ever met is just one of the colorful characters the boy meets. As in Everything Is Illuminated (Houghton, 2002), Foer takes a dark subject and works in offbeat humor with puns and wordplay. But Extremely Loud pushes further with the inclusion of photographs, illustrations, and mild experiments in typography reminiscent of Kurt Vonnegut's Breakfast of Champions (Dell, 1973). The humor works as a deceptive, glitzy cover for a fairly serious tale about loss and recovery. For balance, Foer includes the subplot of Oskar's grandfather, who survived the World War II bombing of Dresden. Although this story is not quite as evocative as Oskar's, it does carry forward and connect firmly to the rest of the novel. The two stories finally intersect in a powerful conclusion that will make even the most jaded hearts fall.-Matthew L. Moffett, Northern Virginia Community College, Annandale
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; First Edition edition (April 4, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0618329706
  • ISBN-13: 978-0618329700
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.2 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1,339 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #51,855 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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More About the Author

Jonathan Safran Foer is the author of the bestseller Everything Is Illuminated, named Book of the Year by the Los Angeles Times and the winner of numerous awards, including the Guardian First Book Prize, the National Jewish Book Award, and the New York Public Library Young Lions Prize. Foer was one of Rolling Stone's "People of the Year" and Esquire's "Best and Brightest." Foreign rights to his new novel have already been sold in ten countries. The film of Everything Is Illuminated, directed by Liev Schreiber and starring Elijah Wood, will be released in August 2005. Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close has been optioned for film by Scott Rudin Productions in conjunction with Warner Brothers and Paramount Pictures. Foer lives in Brooklyn, New York.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

635 of 687 people found the following review helpful By B. Capossere TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on October 15, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Extremely Loud is one of those novels that more than most will live or die on a particular reader's personal taste. Some will find it's twinned tales of a 9-year-old's grief over his father's death on 9/11 and his grandparents' tale of woe (centering on the Dresden firebombing) incredibly moving. Others will find it typographical and textual experiments wildly stimulating (blank pages, color plates, pages of nothing but numbers, photos, etc.). And some will have no trouble suspending disbelief with regard to Oskar's incredible precociousness or the fairy-tale quality of the New York City he moves in. Others, though, will find the book sentimental rather than emotional, cloying rather than powerful. The experimentation will be gimmicky distractions that mar rather than enhance the story. And the narrator's various quirks and gifts (his tambourine play, his vocabulary, his inventions and lists of aphorisms) not only unbelievable but almost unreadable. The lucky thing is it won't take you long to figure out which reader you're going to be. If the former, you'll settle in for an enjoyable ride. If the latter, it will be a long argument with yourself over just where you'll finally give in and quit reading.

Unfortunately, I fell into the latter category. It's rare that I come across a book that can have so much good writing in it that also makes me regularly want to hurl it across the room while I claw out my eyes. In the end, ELIC was a story ruined by talent, though I couldn't decide if it was insecure talent (propping up his story with gimmicks) or self-indulgent talent (throwing in everything and anything just cause he could).

As mentioned, the story centers on young Oskar, whose father left him several phone messages before being killed on 9/11.
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626 of 688 people found the following review helpful By EA Solinas HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on March 10, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Sometimes an author has a theme running through all of his writing -- in the case of Jonathan Safran Foer, it seems to be a quest of the soul. His follow-up to the cult hit "Everything Is Illuminated" is the poignant, quirky, tender "Extremely Loud And Incredibly Close," which takes readers back to the rubble of ground zero.

Oskar Schell is a precocious preteen, who has been left depressed and traumatized. His father died in the September 11 attacks, leaving behind a mysterious key in an envelope with the word "Black" on it. So with the loyalty and passion that only a kid can muster, he begins to explore New York in search of that lock.

As Oskar explores Manhatten, Foer also reaches throughout history to other horrific attacks that shattered people's lives, including his traumatized grandparents. Though the book is sprinkled with letters and stories from before Oskar's time, the boy's quest is the center of the book. And when he finally finds where the key belongs, he will find out a little something about human nature as well...

Historically, only a short time has passed since 9/11, and in some ways "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close" reopens the wounds. It reminds me of all the families who lost fathers, mothers and children. But Foer doesn't use cheap sentimentalism to draw in his readers, nor does he exploit the losses of September 11th families. It takes guts to write a book like this, and skill to do it well.

In some ways, this book is much like Foer's first novel, but he deftly avoids retreading old ground -- the "quest" is vastly different, the young protagonist is very different, and the conflicts and loss are different, though no less hard-hitting.
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412 of 493 people found the following review helpful By N. Gargano VINE VOICE on March 16, 2005
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I just finished reading this wonderful book, and I really can't describe all the feelings swirling inside of me. This is more than a book with a story, it is an experience.

When I write my reviews I never describe the plot of the book, because Amazon does it very well, and of course other people do it in their no need.

Well, even if I wanted to describe this book I couldn't. So again, I will just tell you why I loved it.

Mr. Foer is a wonderful writer. I had not read his first book yet, although I will do that now, but something in the description of this book caught my eye, so I tried it.

I laughed and cried and even when I was laughing, I was profoundly sad. I loved the characters and their flaws, their fears, their stories, their realistic humanity even among such unrealistic situations. I just can't describe how much I loved this book or why, but it has been put on my shelf of favorite books, to be read and reread, or experienced and experienced again. Again, it made me so sad and yet, when I was done, the sadness was mixed with such wonder and even hope. Mr. Foer, you are a marvel, to the readers, don't miss this one.
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49 of 55 people found the following review helpful By Cathy and Rich on December 31, 2009
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
My husband found this book to be brilliant after reading the paperback edition. Since I had just purchased my Kindle, I wanted to read it on my Kindle. Unfortunately, due to a large number of illustrations in the book, this is not a good read for a Kindle. I was very happy to be able to look up pages on the paperback to be sure of what I was seeing. The Kindle graphics are not quite up to this book yet. I think I lost a lot of the enjoyment of the book due to this fact.
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