J's Reviews > Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer
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's review
Jul 09, 2010

it was amazing
Recommended to J by: Kim
Read from May 19 to June 01, 2010

Dear Kim,
Thank you for making me read this, you book-pushing, carney-loving, skee ball fiend. You were right. I wish you lighter boots*, always.

Dear Everyone Else,
Let’s get this out of the way first: There are pictures. They’re intended to be clever and, at times, to clutch at your heart. It’s gimmicky. I don’t care.

Granted, I read this at a time when I may have been more vulnerable to schmaltz. My mother had recently passed away. I was on a journey, searching for the parts of her life that had been lost to me, filling in the blank pages of our relationship. Like Oskar, Jonathan Safran Foer’s nine-year old protagonist, searching the city for the lock to fit his father’s key. His father was lost on September 11th. I say lost because that’s what he was. Lost. Gone, missing, not found. Oskar is trying to make sense of his loss and, in the process, other things are found. The book is made up of letters from an absent father to the son he never knew, letters from a grandmother achingly desperate to be something to someone, and at the center is Oskar’s story. I mentioned his quest for the lock to fit his father’s key. Systematically, scientifically, he works to make his father’s key significant. He needs his father to have been something to someone. Necessary.

While it irks me an entire page has been wasted on a picture of a tennis player, it also makes a very clear point to me: Words are important. A picture is not worth a thousand words. Not that picture, anyway. We need the exchange of words with one another; communication. Loquaciousness, even. We need to hear them, read them, write them on our skin, speak them with our mouths, our hands, our eyes, our mouths again. We need the words.

Why didn’t he say goodbye?
I gave myself a bruise.
Why didn’t he say “I love you”?

…you didn’t sound like someone who was about to die, I wish we could have sat across a table and talked about nothing for hours, I wish we could have wasted time, I want an infinitely blank book and the rest of time…

Foer has a message I can’t afford to ignore. When someone is something to you, tell them. Tell them how your life is better because of them. Tell them how you are better with them. Tell them you love them.

There was never a right time to say it.
It was always unnecessary.
The books in my father’s shed were sighing.
The sheets were rising and falling around me with Anna’s breathing.
I thought about waking her.
But it was unnecessary.
There would be other nights.
And how can you say I love you to someone you love?
I rolled onto my side and fell asleep next to her.
Here is the point of everything I have been trying to tell you, Oskar.
It’s always necessary.

It's always necessary.

*Read the book and you'll know what we're talking about. Maybe.
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Comments (showing 1-26 of 26) (26 new)

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message 1: by Kim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kim Damn right I do, Don't make me come down there...

(okay, do... do make me come down there... please? I'll do your dishes...)

message 2: by J (new) - rated it 5 stars

J You can't make me!! You can't make me!! I refuse to read this book unless you come down here and have fun with me. (And wash my dishes.)

message 3: by Ben (new) - rated it 1 star

Ben She still hasn't visited you, J!

message 4: by J (new) - rated it 5 stars

J She hasn't, Ben. I even offered to paint her face. She hates me.

message 5: by Kim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kim I have my heavy boots on... you just wait.

I'll be a real cougar after J gets a hold of me. (wicked lusty grin)

message 6: by Ben (last edited May 19, 2010 11:39AM) (new) - rated it 1 star

Ben J.-- this books sucks. FYI!

Also, you two cougars are awesome. : )

message 7: by J (new) - rated it 5 stars

J I'm sorry to say I'm loving this book, Ben.

message 8: by Ben (new) - rated it 1 star

Ben Matt and I will go in the corner, then. We're happy there with each other... really, we are..

message 9: by Kim (new) - rated it 5 stars


I love you, J.

You bros have fun... I bet you could find some Zima on ebay.. :)

message 10: by Ben (new) - rated it 1 star

Ben (I have a funny feeling that J. has finished this and is in the process of crafting one of her masterful reviews.)

message 11: by J (new) - rated it 5 stars

J I haven't finished it yet, but the first sentence of any review I may write will be "Thank you, Kim."

On a plane the other day I was sitting with a DJ/pro golfer. He owns a biker bar. That has nothing to do with anything. I just like saying it. He probably does too. Don't you think? Anyway, he asked if I liked the book. I answered yes and asked if he'd read it. "Some. There's some pretty hot sex."

Whoa. Where?

I said I guessed I hadn't gotten to that part yet and he said oh yes I had. He'd been reading over my shoulder! For the record, this book does not, in my estimation, contain hot sex. Thus far.

message 12: by Kim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kim Really? hot sex? Maybe it's time for a reread... really? huh?
Nyah, nyah, Benjamin!!!

message 13: by Ben (new) - rated it 1 star

Ben :P

message 14: by Kim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kim Where's your review, Josie? Huh?

message 15: by J (new) - rated it 5 stars

J ta-da

message 16: by Kim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kim Oh.


Thank you.

Jennifer (aka EM) excellent review. I disagree about the pictures (yes, they are gimmicky; but I thought they added something ineffable to the review--to, in fact, the theme of communication, the difficulty and the necessity of it.)

Oskar's grandmother says something at some point (I'm paraphrasing and likely misquoting): "I hope you never love anyone as much as I love you." That stuck with me, as much as the necessity of saying I love you.

Sentiment, be damned. When it resonates this deeply with the authentic experience of grief and loss, I'm ok with it.

message 18: by Kim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kim A-hem...

"but the first sentence of any review I may write will be "Thank you, Kim."

message 19: by Kim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kim EM... spot on..

another reason I think that this book needs to be read. (you know who you are)

message 20: by J (new) - rated it 5 stars

J Kim: Please see revised review.

Muse: That's a very good point. I was thinking about the reaction of some who'd tried the audio (Ben) while I was reading. How could it possibly translate? The visuals are required for full effect.

message 21: by J (new) - rated it 5 stars

J Also, I think that's exactly the quote. "I hope you never love anything as much as I love you." It really stuck with me as well.

message 22: by Kim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kim Aww.. feelin' the love. I really am. :)

Jennifer (aka EM) J wrote: "I was thinking about the reaction of some who'd tried the audio (Ben) while I was reading. How could it possibly translate? "

I don't think it can, not as a total experience anyway. While I haven't heard the audio version, I can imagine though that Oskar could come across as an insufferably precocious (and precious) little twat. Knowing that this was the case for Ben, who heard it, and others who read it, I had my guard up. But instead, I just saw Oskar as this very hurt (albeit very weird) little boy.

message 24: by Jennifer (aka EM) (last edited Jun 22, 2010 06:26PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jennifer (aka EM) Sticking my head back in ... the other thing about this book, and about Oskar as a character and narrator, which really rang so true was his conflicted relationship with his mom. I thought it so very deftly handled, how JSF never focused on her anywhere; we always saw her through Oskar's distorted filter of grief and confusion. And yet, we also saw so clearly her pain. That is some work with POV there, huh?

The scene where he says he wishes it had been her instead of his father, and how JSF lets that scene unfold--that was masterfully done, and absolutely wrenching.

I want to read this book again, and I just finished it not two weeks ago.

message 25: by J (new) - rated it 5 stars

J I agree. As both a mother and a daughter that scene rang so true it hurt.

message 26: by Kim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kim I need to re-read it too... I just don't think I'm strong enough right now.

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