Anna's Reviews > Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer
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's review
Jun 10, 2007

really liked it
Read in June, 2007

just finished Jonathan Safran Foer's novel last night, late, because I couldn't sleep and I only had a little bit left to read. At it's end, I wept. It is not a sentimental book. It's written in experimental style, with doodles and photos and random placement of words, phrases, dialogue running into each other sometimes, weird indentations, and POVs that once in a while jump around, even tho' sticking with the "I" voice. There were times I thought, "Hey! This seems like a writing exercise he just threw in there! An excellent one, but nonetheless, seemingly distracting."

Yet it all comes together in the end. Not comes around -- no, it's not circular in that neat, narrative way most fiction perhaps tries to attain. It's random and all over and often exasperating to follow. But it FEELS like experience and in the end, it FEELS like you lived it, because the final words encompass you in a most comprehensive, compassionate, resonant, moving way.

This won't make sense -- I am still processing -- and I don't really want to write a literary lauding of Foer and his wonderful character, 13-year-old Oskar (or is he 15? I lost track, but not in a bad way). He's already one of the prestigious GRANTA's "Best Young Novelists Under 35 to Watch." Others will analyze and wax literary much better than I.

Simply, when this novel was published in 2005, I read the reviews that said, "Here is a young man who has written one of the first novels of 9/11, through the quirky eyes of a pre-teen, without sentimentality or melodrama or gore, and better yet, with the talent of one who is prodigiously gifted." Or some such phrasing. In any case, I remember making a note of it. "This will be the first novel about 9/11 I will read, when I am ready."

Last September 2006, during the 5th anniversary of 9/11, I found myself actually wanting to remember, for the first time. Not that I ever forgot -- I feel that date quite viscerally every year it rolls around and in every mention and reference I hear. I think, like any New Yorker at that moment, I cannot detach myself from its burrowed presence within me, having lived through that day on Manhattan and that year afterwards during its immediate aftermath. But I put it away from me, That Thing I Never Wanted to Wallow In. So this year, I finally let myself wallow. And I read this book.

All I can say is that it captures in a very deep psychic sense, all of the details from after around beyond that day and its aftermath, in the most thorough, random, distracted, ever-present, whimsical, sad, horrible, angry, funny, wayward, yet connective ways, so organically, that even though I sometimes wandered in the reading, sometimes tuned out only to get thrust back in, found myself surprisingly moved in unwary places, thoughtful in so many unsuspected spaces, I still was touched to my core by its final simplicity at the end. I cannot share those details here -- I feel like this is one of those books that a first time read is one's own singular experience and thus, would like to leave that future discovery for potential readers intact -- but I will say this: It's a beautiful beautiful book about and beyond 9/11, especially in regards to the notion of imagination allowing humanity always, a semblance of hope, in every shading. DEFINITELY recommended, tho' it's experimental fiction style may not be everyone's cup of tea.
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