brian’s review of Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close > Likes and Comments

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message 1: by Malbadeen (new)

Malbadeen Yay, Brian! YAY! YAY! YAY! I hope you love this book and if you don't, I hope you keep it to yourself and don't sway other people's opinions.

message 2: by [deleted user] (new)

I just bought a new copy of this today. I lent mine out and I'm sure it's gone forever. I feel better having another, even it's not the exact copy that ripped my guts out.

message 3: by brian (last edited Oct 17, 2009 06:28PM) (new)

brian   well, i'm totally digging it so far, marie.

without having read a single review i can imagine lotsa people throwing out the 'it's so precious' card, but fuck that. there's some serious poetry running through this thing... and i usually have a very hard time with books narrated by young kids. not here. foer's also great at withholding information. there's a great tragedy at the center of this novel (beyond what, of course, happened to oskar's father), something very mysterious and sad running underneath it all, and i'm not sure what it is or where it's headed... a very enjoyable reading experience thus far.

message 4: by Malbadeen (last edited Oct 17, 2009 06:35PM) (new)

Malbadeen I can't wait to hear your final thoughts.

And Sarah, I got my loaned out copy back - UN READ! That ripped my guts out! Jeesh! can you believe it?

message 5: by [deleted user] (new)

Who was it?

message 6: by [deleted user] (new)

I hate Foer. His first novel was published to much critical acclaim when he was only twenty-five-years-old. That makes me sick.

Young, talented, successful people should be shot.

message 7: by Dave (new)

Dave Russell Like Orson Welles?

message 8: by Kim (new)

Kim Heavy boots, I tell you... FOER RULZ.

message 9: by [deleted user] (new)

Brian, this book fell under the way too precious category for me. That you're liking it makes me want to give it another shot . . . almost.

message 10: by Malbadeen (new)

Malbadeen Sarah, it was H___ea (that we work with).

dk, he's also married to Nicole Krause, author of History of Love, another reason to "hate"him.

message 11: by D. (last edited Oct 19, 2009 08:22PM) (new)

D. Pow On the one hand I think your last few reviews kick ass and I enjoy like hell reading them. On the other hand I feel that you might have become completely psychologically unhinged and I worry about your safety.

Never carry guns. Always wear a seat belt. Don't jaywalk so much on Sunset. Remember it is quite easy to get yourself committed and safely ensconced in an institution. Not so easy to get out.

Viva La Gottlieb! Viva La Jack!

message 12: by Ben (last edited Oct 19, 2009 07:42PM) (new)

Ben Fuck, Brian, powerful review.

message 13: by Weinz (new)

Weinz Another great review. I'm with DPow though, your next book needs to be filled with butterflies and rainbows. Please.

message 14: by Chloe (new)

Chloe Wow, this was exactly the review that I hoped for but feared I would not get. I'm glad to see that Foer touched you (in the special places). Still, trust me when I say that you should just bypass Everything is Illuminated if you want to keep this high.

message 15: by RandomAnthony (new)

RandomAnthony Excellent, Brian...this book was way better than I expected, I agree...

message 16: by [deleted user] (last edited Oct 19, 2009 08:02PM) (new)

This is exactly how I felt when I finished it. Oh man. You brought it all back. I'm going to go curl up in fetal position, now.

message 17: by Daniel (new)

Daniel I long to be as generous a reader and reviewer as you are, Brian.

message 18: by Kimley (new)

Kimley Brian, like others here, I'm concerned for your well-being. I think it's time for something a little more soothing and apropos of your current fetal position...

message 19: by brian (last edited Oct 19, 2009 09:38PM) (new)

brian   kimley, i will go so muddafuckin' gonzo on that shit i'll make james ellroy look like mitch albom, malcolm lowry like john grisham, and william burroughs like dan brown... watch it, woman.

thanks for the kind words, all.

viva el donkey don!

message 20: by Kimley (last edited Oct 19, 2009 09:38PM) (new)

Kimley Heh heh. Wow, I had no idea Pat the Bunny was so powerful.

And your review actually has me considering reading this book despite the fact that I have zero interest in 9/11 lit so vengeance is yours.

message 21: by Tatiana (new)

Tatiana I admire your passionate approach to reviewing these books. I'm glad you let books affect you so much. I second the recommendation of Pat the Bunny, though I found its palpable textures to be more quickening than soothing.

message 22: by [deleted user] (last edited Oct 20, 2009 05:49AM) (new)

13 votes overnight??

You people should have been sleeping, not voting. I mean, when are you gonna give up that lame-ass Pacific Standard Time bullshit already? How does it feel to be living in time that the east side of the country has already used up and chucked in the trash?

Oh, and gotti... your vote-accrual strategies are a rip-roaring success. I worship at your altar. Teach me your ways... your mysterious, inscrutable ways...

message 23: by [deleted user] (last edited Oct 20, 2009 05:50AM) (new)

Don't be bitter just because you have to go to bed early.

message 24: by Kim (new)

Kim yes, brian... thank you for this....I still cry buckets when I think of this book. Still.

message 25: by Michelle (new)

Michelle And your review actually has me considering reading this book despite the fact that I have zero interest in 9/11 lit so vengeance is yours.

Same here, Kimley.

message 26: by Kim (last edited Oct 20, 2009 08:57AM) (new)

Kim Sure... HIS review does it for you, right? Shel? RIGHT?

Goddamn muthafrickin' hell, 25yrs of friendship down the frickin' poopshoot to you too.

It's because of Possession/The Secret History/Atonement right? RIGHT?

edit: No offense to you, brian... this is strictly a Michelle thing.

message 27: by Michelle (last edited Oct 20, 2009 08:51AM) (new)

Michelle Well, yours got me to add it to my "to read" shelf, so there is that.
: )

It's because of Possession/The Secret History/Atonement right? RIGHT?

(P.S. I can't help it if your taste is questionable.)

message 28: by Kim (new)

Kim I hope that you tangle up real good in your cow face pose... namaste, mofo

message 29: by Weinz (new)

Weinz It was the Brian/Kim review combo that REALLY got me to reconsider reading this one.

message 30: by Michelle (new)

Michelle Nice save, Michelle.

message 31: by Kim (new)

Kim [image error]

message 32: by Daniel (new)

Daniel I'd still like to convince people not to read this one -- like many, I consider it far too precious -- but now Brian is making me feel like a jackass for saying so. So go ahead and read it, people. Who knows, maybe some of you will end up joining me in my lack of enthusiasm for this book. I try to be as generous a reader as Brian is, but just can't do it on this one.

message 33: by brian (new)

brian   i think, daniel, that with this book more than most others, it comes down to a matter of taste. i recognized the preciousness and various other flaws, but it didn't matter. i was swept away despite (and, in some cases, because of) the flaws.

furthermore, there is a paragraph near the end in which Oskar's voice changes. he points out that he cannot exactly remember what he was thinking at that particular point in time but he is speculating. this short passage is fascinating in that we're reminded we are reading an older oskar's recollection. if this book came out in 2005, that makes oskar around 15, yeah? so it makes sense to me that the oskar sections are narrated by a precocious hyper-intelligent over-educated fifteen year old speculating on who he was and what he'd sound like 3 - 5 years previously... foer was deliberately writing it from an older boy's perspective as it was an older boy narrating. older than ten, but still not old enough to fight the urge to poeticize much of what he experienced.

message 34: by Daniel (new)

Daniel Interesting points, Brian, and something I hadn't thought about. I guess, in the end, it comes down to the same troubles I had with Ian McEwan's "Atonement," another book many people loved and I did not. The problems I had with that book's narrative could also be attributed to the person doing the narrating -- her limited perspective and her need to justify her actions. Still didn't make me enjoy the book even with that realization though. And, sure, Oskar's preciousness can be explained by his age and place in life, but that didn't stop it from grating on me.

message 35: by Jasmine (new)

Jasmine Kim wrote: ""

i heart you Kim

message 36: by Sarah (new)

Sarah Sigh.

message 37: by Kim (new)

Kim I double that sigh, Sarah... Thanks, Jasmine...

Daniel, I'm actually surprised that you said that you'd like to convince people not to read this. I know, it can be gimmicky, it can seem sophomoric... but, I believe that Brian is right... I've tried to get a few people to read it and I was actually surprised that they didn't feel the same way. It opened my eyes a bit, but didn't change my views. I like the ploys here, they work for me. I'm not that easy to pull crap over on, but yeah.. sometimes the ruse works. I'm also an avid YA fan, and even though Oskar is very precocious, he's still a strong character for me.
I guess it was your choice of words.. the 'convince' part...
I was not pleased with Atonement and god, get me the hell away from Disgrace, yet... hmmm... I don't know...

message 38: by Daniel (new)

Daniel Well, maybe I stated my view a bit too strongly, Kim. Frankly, I don't much care what most people read. Hell, they can read Dan Brown, I suppose, if that gets their rocks off. But I certainly wouldn't recommend "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close" -- or a Dan Brown book, for that matter -- to a friend. Life's too short, and there are countless better books out there. But I am glad that other people enjoyed Foer's book, and I know that I'm often a harsh, overly critical reader.

Plus, this book did lead you to post a picture of the Wonder Twins, Kim, so it obviously does have some value.

message 39: by Sarah (new)

Sarah My friend read it and hated it because of the gimmicks. Her review turned me off of wanting to read it but Brian's has turned me right back on (he has that effect on the ladies. And David).

And I loved Atonement, by the way.

message 40: by brian (new)

brian   yeah, i totally dug atonement as well -- which, i suppose, could be thought of as similarly gimmicky. for me, gimmicks cease to be gimmicks when they expand the emotional depth of the story -- which is what the devices in both atonement and extremely loud did.

and, yeah, i try and fight that midwestern goober polack off, but he keeps coming back for me. some people have no shame.

message 41: by Daniel (last edited Oct 21, 2009 11:15AM) (new)

Daniel I readily admit that I have a strong distaste for gimmicks -- in books, in movies, in television shows -- and that the use of gimmicks means the quality has to be very high to overcome that distaste. (As a non-literature example, the British TV series "Life on Mars" was certainly gimmicky -- a modern-day police detective finds himself transported to the 1970s, and doesn't know whether it's real or he's in a coma -- but it was well-written, had great characters and was well-acted, so quality trumped the gimmick.) Neither "Atonement" nor "Extremely Loud" is a terrible book, to be sure, but the gimmicks in both were major turn-offs for me.

message 42: by Sarah (new)

Sarah But you didn't know Atonement was a gimmick until the end, did you?

message 43: by Bram (last edited Oct 21, 2009 11:55AM) (new)

Bram This might be going too deep, but how are we defining gimmicks? Wouldn't every fiction writer be using gimmicks to create whatever impact they're going for? Is Hemingway's prose style a gimmick?

It seems like gimmicks should just be split into good and bad--i.e. do they work for you, the reader?

Or is gimmick being used here as a substitute for emotional manipulation?

message 44: by Shelly (new)

Shelly Yeah, I'm with you, Bram. What's a gimmick? What was gimmicky about this book?

message 45: by Bram (new)

Bram Yeah, I haven't read it--maybe that's why I'm confused. But it seems like with fiction, where the story is generally "made-up", gimmicks are implicit in the undertaking.

message 46: by Shelly (new)

Shelly When I think of gimmicks, I think of shit like that Julie woman who wrote a book about recreating Julia Child recipes. "Hmm. Let's see... I'm not creative or especially inventive or talented, but I want to write a book so I will ________." (Take the bible literally for awhile, start doing crack, live in a van by the river, etc. etc.)

I'm not sure exactly what the complaint is here with this book, but I am imagining it to be something more like sentimentalism. i.e, the author wants me to feel a certain way right now, so he's forcing it... my reactions to this story aren't organic, in other words, but prompted by literary tools.

Still, I'm not sure this is the case.

message 47: by [deleted user] (last edited Oct 21, 2009 12:30PM) (new)

Pedro Almodovar films -- for example -- are gimmicky. They all rely on ridiculous coincidences, mistaken identity, characters in comas, etc.

The Russian novel The Queue is gimmicky. It's all dialogue from mundane conversations taking place in a Soviet-era food/merchandise line, included two dozen or so blank pages for when the characters are all sleeping.

The Crying Game is gimmicky. Who would have noticed this snoozefest of a film if Dil didn't have a dill?

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is gimmicky when Huck just happens to arrive at the house (by sheer happenstance) where Tom Sawyer is expected and is mistaken for him.

These are a few examples (from film and lit) that come quickly to mind...

(I haven't read this book though.)

I think a 'gimmick' might be defined as an incongruous plot development or stylistic device that doesn't seem justified by the content of the book/film in its entirety and may be calculated just to generate interest ('buzz') or to tie a story up (often too) neatly. (Of course this is a matter of taste/opinion.)

message 48: by Bram (last edited Oct 21, 2009 12:23PM) (new)

Bram Yeah, Shelly, I think what you're saying in the 2nd paragraph is what's being meant by gimmicky, but I'm not entirely sure either. That's also a very tricky topic in general because I'm not sure why some books that make people cry/emotional get branded as sentimental and manipulative (say, this book) while others do not (say, Hemingway or Cormac McCarthy). If a book affected you deeply, didn't the author succeed in manipulating your emotions? I think it's just a question of whether or not they're any good at it. Subtlety is a big part of being good at it, I think, because if you can see the author trying to manipulate you, the spell will be broken.

message 49: by Bram (last edited Oct 21, 2009 12:28PM) (new)

Bram Yeah, I can go with those examples/definition, David. I think it just seemed to me (and Shelly) that the word was starting to be used more and more liberally so that I wasn't sure if I was following. So, as defined by David, does Foer employ gimmicks in this book?

message 50: by Daniel (new)

Daniel Sarah: You're right. With "Atonement," it wasn't clear it was a gimmick until close to the end. In the case of that book, I wasn't a fan before I realized what the gimmick was, and the fact that it turned out to be gimmicky just made me more annoyed.

As for the definition of gimmicks, I'm tempted to go with the Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart definition of obscenity: I know it when I see it. But I would say that novels that make heavy use of things like varying typefaces, drawings, numbered lists, footnotes and the like would fall under the definition of gimmicky. (A longtime favorite of mine, Vonnegut's "Breakfast of Champions," would certainly qualify. I still love it though. I never claimed to be consistent.) "Atonement"'s a bit different, as its gimmick comes down to who the book's narrator is, how reliable the narrator is, and when the narrator is revealed. That gimmick, I would say, is most similar to, in the movie world, "The Sixth Sense." But, again, Nabokov used gimmicks similar to the one in "Atonement," and I'm a fan of his writing.

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