Andy's Reviews > Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer
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Aug 01, 08

Recommended for: Pseudo-intellectuals, people suckered by saccharine emotion
Read in July, 2008


A more apt title would have been Terribly Artificial and Unbearably Pretentious. This seems like the kind of thing I would have thought was a profound idea when I myself was nine, laboring on crayon illustrations to include with my manuscript into the wee hours of the morning. Maybe that means Foer succeeded. I happen to think it means his efforts were an abject failure, and that he has a great many readers and critics completely snowed.

With a book like this, you either accept it as charming wistfulness, or you don’t. You either think random tabbing on pages is innovative, or you don’t. You think empty pages and single phrases on other pages is a daring deconstruction of traditional publishing mores, or you don’t. I don’t.

Foer’s grieving young narrator is a ridiculous creation, the book’s pagination is something a stricter editor should have vomited upon, and the situations in which Oskar finds himself are fabricated of glitter-encrusted papier-mâché. This story is never once believable; therefore any emotion generated is as phony as a three-dollar bill. Now don’t misunderstand; I read lots of far-fetched books, so I believe genuine emotion can be achieved through stories about the tooth fairy, WMDs, sympathetic lawyers or any number of myths. But too many times in this book, people do things just to do them, and things happen just to have them happen or to give Foer scanty reason to wax poetic for pages at a time – without such bourgeoisie restrictions as paragraphs or punctuation (or sensible storytelling) muddling up the artiste’s vision.

Foer’s stream-of-consciousness narrative reminds me of the saying about the infinite monkeys: sooner or later one of an infinite number of monkeys on an infinite number of typewriters is going to randomly type the complete works of Shakespeare. Except in Foer’s case, it’s as though he was one of the monkeys in the middle of infinity, a bright but underachieving chimpanzee picking nits and banging the keys petulantly with a hardened piece of fecal matter. If Foer wished to write a thick book entirely in free verse (broken up with pictures now and again so people don’t become “bored”), then he should have had the cajones to do so, not foist this vanity project upon the public under the guise of a novel claiming to be about reaction to 9/11.

This is a book for a self-important Attention-Deficit society. I think most people in today’s age of texting while driving and non-stop news alerts and picture-in-picture don’t actually read every word on the page anyway. They scan pages looking for the “good stuff,” and that’s all they remember. So therefore they’re not put off by the author’s interminable ramblings, his attempt to bludgeon the reader with a thick blanket of nonsensical phrases, hoping they will be distracted into thinking they come together to create some sort of profound stew greater than the sum of its silly parts. But for those of us who think each word matters, this practice is annoying subterfuge, and ultimately meaningless.
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Comments (showing 1-15 of 15) (15 new)

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Krok Zero Amen. I just wrote a much shorter but no less pissed-off review of this book, if you'd like to check it out (we made similar opening jokes, even).


David Ruekberg I must have missed the "thick blanket of nonsensical phrases." It made sense to me. Were you texting while reading?


message 3: by Kelly (new)

Kelly I understand how some parts of this book could have confused you Andy. But I agree with Druek. This book needs to be read v. carefully.


Kate Thankyou Andy for giving life to my thoughts - I kept going because so many people gave it five stars. I enjoyed your comments and agree whole heartedly with your ADHD comments. I am still thinking exactly how I am going to review this one.


Oscarlovespaper Villa I see your points. I'm personally a great fan of Foer's work but i am not blinded by infatuation or whatever you'd call it to truely respect other people's opinions. Your review however, seemed more like one of spite. Try to read it THEN review it not pick at every word as you go through it. Get a broader view of the big picture and you'll see where the emotion in this book is.


Jessica Rios "thick blanket of nonsensical phrases." Phrases like, "jose", "heavy boots," "one hundred dollars." Is that what you meant? If not, its what I mean. I really hated all of those sayings put into the book. It wasn't endearing at all. I just thought it was stupid. I'm glad I borrowed this book and not actually bought it!


Katie Funny review, but I sense you were on a roll spewing insults and ended up hyperbolizing your reaction to the book. Maybe? Yes? Fine if you don't like it, but if you don't think you may have gotten a bit carried away, then I'm not sure JSF is the pretentious one.


Jessica Rios Maybe...probably. I am into hyperbolizing pretty much everything. It makes life fun.


Josh Fish I agree that too many things happen just to happen. Even the characters act more like a sophisticated novelist would act or would want them to act instead of how they really would act. So many things Oskar says and does seem unbelievable at his age. He seems not only too intelligent for his age but also too educated. I sometimes couldn't tell if it was Oskar or an adult and that seems like it should never be the case. It's a very clever book, effective even, especially at the end, but is missing that all important realism that a book about 9-11 so needs.


Rachel I am one of those people that when I start reading a book I have to finish it. I am disliking this book almost as much as Eat, Pray, Love.


message 11: by Josh (new) - rated it 4 stars

Josh Fish I thought it really contrived but interesting from a craft of writing point of view. Now it is going to be a movie and win an oscar because it is about 9/11.


message 12: by Manny (new)

Manny I'd just started thinking I should read this. Thank you for saving me the time and pain.


Bailey This is EXACTLY what I thought... Thank you for expressing,my thoughts!


Allison "Terribly Artificial and Unbearably Pretentious" - yep that exactly sums up my feelings about everything this author writes.


Daria I, myself, really liked the book, but I think that's only because (as you said) I accepted the blank pages and other quirks. Although, I do really like your review, even if I don't necessarily agree with it.


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