Laurel's Reviews > Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close

Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer
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's review
Dec 28, 2008

it was amazing
bookshelves: fiction, favorites
Read from July 16 to 17, 2011 , read count: 2

I hate to keep pointing out to everyone that I listened to the audio version of this or that book, as it gets repetitive after awhile, and for the most part, it is usually irrelevant. In this case, though, it seems to have made a difference.

When I finished Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, I went online to read some reviews. I was surprised by what I read. It seemed that just about everyone who gave their opinion on this book, whether positive or negative, commented on Foer's "experimental" writing style. Apparently, Foer would at times not use proper punctuation, or would clump words on top of each other so that they appeared to look like scribbles, or would insert photographs, or even leave several pages blank. I hate to look like I'm trying to be cute by using the phrase which appeared so often in the book, but my reaction to this was exactly that: What the.... ?

There is no evidence of any of these experimental writing tactics in the audio version whatsoever. I mean, there is mention of a memoir having nothing but blank pages, but that is part of the story itself... there was no sense of actual blank pages within Foer's book. There was no sense of words piling up on each other, either. And, clearly, there were no pictures.

I'm not sure how I would have felt about the book with all of the above thrown in. Some seemed to have found it distracting, and perhaps I'd have felt the same. Without them, though, you are left with nothing but the story itself, pure and uncluttered, and which I found to be beautifully written.

The narration by the various actors was also superbly done. Sometimes I get annoyed by the fact that my current situation limits me to audiobooks, as I miss having a real book in my hand and reading the words on a page in my own voice with my own interpretation. And then I come across a book like this one, and I am glad. Some books, it seems, are even better read aloud.
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Quotes Laurel Liked

Jonathan Safran Foer
“Sometimes I can hear my bones straining under the weight of all the lives I'm not living.”
Jonathan Safran Foer, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

Reading Progress

01/31/2009 page 100
04/21/2016 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-21 of 21) (21 new)

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Cynthia McCrain I'm listening to the book now and I'm really enjoying it. The narrators are great and I'm curious to hear how my book club buddies feel about the printed version - wonder if they will like it as much as I am. I read a lot of books, but I also enjoy listening to books and sometimes I think there's an advantage to listening, especially if the narrator is really good.

Laurel I'm glad you are enjoying it!! I definitely think there are some books that are even better when listened to or read aloud. I'd be curious to hear how your experience of the book differs from your book club buddies reading the print version, too!

By the way, If you like this one, you may also like Life of Pi, which has the same young male narrator. He does an excellent job in that one as well.

message 3: by Haboda990 (last edited Apr 11, 2009 02:59PM) (new)

Haboda990 The pictures and blank pages all have specific meanings. These are references that are used in the book. E.Q. The picture of the nude "monkeys" was a reference to the fact that Oskar absolutely loves to read national geographic. Also all of the doorknobs are pictures that were taken when Thomas took pictures of everything in his house for his home insurance. The blank pages are CLEARLY explanied if you read the text before and after the pages.

Laurel I'm sure they are. I unfortunately am unable to read print right now, and am relying on audiobooks. So I listened to the audiobook, which had no pictures or blank pages. So I was just saying that, without these things, it may have been an entirely different experience for me. But I loved it just the way it was with the story alone. Someday I hope to read the text version and see what I think in comparison.

Cynthia McCrain Hi, Laurel. I loved the audiobook! The three narrators did a terrific job and I recommended to my book club buddies that they all try listening to the book. Three of my bc buddies read the book and were extremely moved by the story; one person had a hard time following it; one person found it annoying reading. Maybe she would've liked it had she listened to it. Although I listened to the audiobook version, when I was done I bought the book so I could read it and loan it to others. I love this story so much, I will never forget it! I fell in love with Oskar. I plan to read Jonathan Foer's first book and he's definitely a writer I will be following from now on.

Laurel Chandra -- It really is a great book!! It might be a good choice for the next time you and your husband have a long car ride to face again!

Cindy -- I"m so glad you loved it as much as I did. I fell in love with Oskar too. I think it's near impossible not to! His quirkiness, determination and longing for his father all make him so endearing. I agree that all 3 narrators did an excellent job. Funny, I immediately checked out Foer's first book after finishing this one, too. I liked it, but not as much. I just didn't connect with the characters quite as well, I guess. Hopefully you will enjoy it.
If I remember right, the audio on that one has the same young male narrator as well.

Interesting what your other book club members thought of it. I can't say for sure, and probably won't ever be able to know, as my first impression will always have been the audio version --but I DO think this is one best read out loud... even if it means we miss out on the pictures. :)

By the way, if you listen to audio books a lot.. I'm currently listening to The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society... another one with excellent narration!

Cynthia McCrain Hi, Laurel. Someone else recommended "The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society" to me as well and I'm going to download it to my iPod today. I listened to a sample of it and it sounds really good!

I commute to work by bus and love listening to books while I'm on my way to/from work. A good narrator makes all the difference. I will have to look through your book reviews for future listens.

Have a great day!

message 8: by Donnaelrick (new) - added it

Donnaelrick Elrick I am currently listening to EL&IC on cd because my daughter recommended it. She said it was much better on paper. I don't think I could read it as I have a hard time reading improper english and punctuation. I couldn't read Junie B. Jones! So far, it's hard to follow but she is helping me figure it out.

Laurel Hope you enjoy it!

message 10: by Nina (last edited Nov 01, 2011 07:53AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Nina I've been close to ordering this book a couple of times but always decided on something else instead. Now I'm kind of glad I did, because your review makes me think the audio book might be even better, and I still struggle reading books more than I like to admit.

So there it goes on my to-read list! Thanks for this review :)

Laurel Oh, I hope you like it, Nina! I tend to have a soft spot for coming-of-age type novels.

I did have someone tell me they didn't like the narrator's voice for the audio. If you wanted to get a sample of it, they have an excerpt on, though the excerpt does sound a bit annoying. :) But his voice fits the quirkiness of the character, I think. The book actually has 3 different narrators for each character, and they all do a great job. Anyway, I loved it. I actually listened to it again just recently, and I think I enjoyed it even more the 2nd time! Maybe because it was right around the 10th anniversary of 9/11, which I think made it even more poignant somehow.

message 12: by Nina (new) - rated it 4 stars

Nina Yes I like that theme as well, especially in the "boarding school setting" :)

I'm not sure, but "Skippy dies" may be one for you, too? Even after reading it, I wasn't 100% sure if I liked it. It was great writing, not always easy to read, but I just couldn't grow to like the characters, although each of them was special in some way.

I'll definitely check out the excerpt on audible, I always do because so much depends on the voice of the narrator, but in this case I will also give him/them the benefit of the doubt, I want to read this book! :)

message 13: by Laurel (last edited Nov 01, 2011 02:16PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Laurel I've been curious about Skippy Dies for awhile now. I may give it a go soon. Sometimes really long books seem so daunting to me at first -- it's such a commitment! :) But I've heard good things.

I agree that a narrator can make or break an audio book. I often wish publishers took that into consideration more often! :)

I'll be curious your opinion of the Foer book if you listen! I'd say be patient with it at first. It starts off a bit odd, but it's really a touching story and worth sticking with to the end!

Helen Stevens They are pages from the daybooks, his grandmother's letters, and his "things that have happened to me" books. The pages without proper punctuation/misspellings are the actual letters as they were written.

Merrie I agree with what you've said. All of my books are audiobooks.

Kathleen I so agree! I doubt I would have been able to 'read' this book but I am obsessed with the audio version.

Rachel Hall This is EXACTLY what I experienced with this book. I loved the audio so much, and I recommended it to numerous people, then realized how different the writing style was. Audio books are sometimes the best way to go, for sure!

Sophia I haven't listen to the audio book version but I feel if I did I would understand the book much better. I agree with the pictures being distracting but a few of them, like from the art store wasn't distracting. I agree with your "What the" moment but mine is where Foer takes one page with the one word or short phrases on them. That really confused me. I wasn't sure where I was and what was going on (within the book). Overall I agree with the majority of your review.

Emily Davies I thought the pictures clearly represented the clutter and distractions in the lives of Oskar, his Grandma and The Renter (the three narrators) It was a way to show that lives are not ordered and simple like books. They are much more like a scrapbook or a diary, so I suppose Foer was trying to add a diary/scrapbook element.

Katie I am currently listening to it and loving it.

message 21: by Pia (new) - rated it 4 stars

Pia I suspect I'd have disliked the book if I had read it as a paper version. The audio book was a great way to get into the mood of the writing without any distractions. It's breathless, exhausting, absurd, but to me, also plausible and sad.

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