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Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close Paperback – November 1, 2011
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From the Back Cover
A Best Book of the Year
Los Angeles Times, Washington Post Book World, Chicago Tribune, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Rocky Mountain News
Energetic, inventive, and ambitious . . . an uplifting myth born of the sorrows of 9/11. Boston Globe
Jonathan Safran Foer emerged as one of the most original writers of his generation with his best-selling debut novel, Everything Is Illuminated. Now, with humor, tenderness, and awe, he confronts the traumas of our recent history.
Nine-year-old Oskar Schell has embarked on an urgent, secret mission that will take him through the five boroughs of New York. His goal is to find the lock that matches a mysterious key that belonged to his father, who died in the World Trade Center on the morning of September 11. This seemingly impossible task will bring Oskar into contact with survivors of all sorts on an exhilarating, affecting, often hilarious, and ultimately healing journey.
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close is a miracle, a daybreak, a man on the moon. It's so impeccably imagined, so courageously executed, so everlastingly moving and fine. Baltimore Sun
Foer is definitely a new sort of literary warrior virtuosic, visionary, ingenious, hilarious, heartbreaking. He brings an astonishing array of firepower to the page. Village Voice
JONATHAN SAFRAN FOER is the author of the novels Everything is Illuminated and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, and a work of nonfiction, Eating Animals. His books have won numerous awards and have been translated into 36 languages. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.
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As much as I appreciated the writing, I found the pacing towards the beginning a slog. Others have said it's too sad - I present the idea that the book's problem is that it's *constantly* sad. There's nothing wrong with heavy source material, but EL&IC never lets up. As I reader, I got desensitized in about three pages and wasn't brought back...ever. Not everyone in the universe is living a sad and depressing life, but you wouldn't know it in this book's NYC. EL&IC tried the "dark and gritty" approach, and it didn't suck, but it had a lot of trouble dragging me down as the pages went by. A drop into sorrow only works if you're not already there.
The book is immensely funny where it is not heart-stopping emotional or just tragic. There are numerous characters of different kind used to show various good parts of humanity. And the little boy's simple way of describing them is extremely effective. Immensely likeable and caring grandmother and mother repeatedly take the story to lofty emotional heights before the unbelievably sad and still uplifting climax.
Notwithstanding all the other great things, the book absolutely shines when describing the father-son relationship. The five calls (and particularly the fifth) could not have been more chilling, well-placed and still so wonderfully warm.
The holocaust backdrop, the grandfather's simple muteness and even simpler ways of conversations, his obtuse ways of not putting behind the past, various Blacks' idiosyncrasies surround some amazingly tender, clever and poignant observations by the nine-year old. The loss/mourning engulfing the entire story is contrasted with the constant, highly clever and engaging humour spread throughout the book which is never out of place.
2) Characters (5 stars) - Some of the most original, fascinating, and endearing characters I have ever experienced. There is the curious, inventive, kind boy Oskar, who creates a world from his imagination and intellect that for many is much more fun than their reality. The only thing is his magical world is crumbling under the weight of heartache. There is the grandfather who witnessed such horrors that he lost his words. There's the caring mother and grandmother trying to keep Oskar going while also trying to mend their own lives. And then there's the eclectic assortment of New Yorkers Oskar meets on his journey. Everyone was odd and interesting yet still very real, a tough combination to successfully pull off.
3) Theme (5 stars) - How do we cope with tragedy? Real tragedy. Like your parents dying way to early or seeing whole cities burned alive? How do you keep living? How do you keep loving? This was the best exploration of tragedy and the feelings that go along with it I have ever read. But it wasn't depressing. That's what was so magical about it. It was just real.
4) Voice (5 stars) - Foer is experimental in his prose (think lack of punctuation, pictures, empty pages), but it's not gimmicky. Every unorthodoxy works to reinforce the mood, to drive home the feelings, to get you deeper into the characters.
5) Setting (4 stars) - New York in the present and Dresden before and after the fire bombing. The details of each were vivid, and they worked to support the characters and mood.
6) Overall (5 stars) - I have never read a book as pack with emotions as this one. Wonderful cast, wonderful theme, wonderful voice. Not only would I recommend it, I would read it again.