K.D. Absolutely's Reviews > Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer
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's review
Nov 12, 2011

really liked it
bookshelves: saddest, drama, family-drama, with-movie, given-away
Recommended to K.D. by: Emir
Recommended for: Emir

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close is extremely sad and incredibly stylish. For a thin plot, Foer was able to extend it by shifting narratives, delightful monologues, empty pages, pages with one liners, pages with black and white pictures, pages with colored pictures, pages with scribbled names, pages that look like a manuscript with editor's proofreading symbols and by several back stories (Hiroshima bombing, Dresden bombing, etc). That’s a delicate style that I think only gifted writers can pull away with. The story is simple: about a boy whose father died in 9/11 and a couple of years after, he found a mysterious key under a flower vase inside his father's dresser. The search led him to find out more stories about his father. The search led him to the answers to his questions, meet many interesting people, find a way to heal his wounds and move on with his life.

The narrator is Oskar Schell, a 9-y/o son of the 9/11 victim. Oskar is intellectually curious, sensitive, pacifist, musically-inclined, earnest. I am not sure if that is really how an American 9-y/o thinks, feels and acts. When I was at that age, I had a classmate who died of drowning while she and her family were having a picnic aboard a boat on a Black Saturday. I got sad because that classmate of mine was close to me but I did not have those deep and mind-blowing thoughts that Foer made for Oskar. I also thought that his thinking is sometimes vague, too mature and not childish at all. There were times I thought that he was like Oskar Matzerath, the man-child (or the man who decided not to grow up) in Gunter Grass’ opus, The Thin Drum minus of course the glass-shattering shrieks. Instead, the Oskar in this novel cries in every opportunity and says “I love you” as his second language like a big star in an afternoon television series. When he cries and says that he loves you, that’s heart shattering and you’ll say that Foer is a genius and this book should have a movie. Yes, there is an on-going production of this and you will see the output on December 25, 2011 at your favorite U.S. theaters :

Guaranteed to make you cry especially if you are a male and have a quirky relationship with your father or with your son. In my opinion, its melodrama borders between manipulative and sincere. In other words, it almost felt like it uses 9/11 to squirt tears from its readers and almost felt like it was just disrespectfully cashing out sympathy for the victims at the expense of the victims’ families and friends. However, I think that reading this in 2011 and not in 2005 when the book was first published is better because many of the families and friends of those who perished have already moved on with their lives. That despite the pain and much more the good memories that their loved ones left behind with them. Those will never ever go away.

Guaranteed to blow you away especially if you are used to reading linear narrative and straightforward and precise storytelling. I thought that the back stories were all pieces of thoughts that the boy or the father had so I just read them on strides. I did not know that those will be part of the grand scheme in the end. These little things could catch you unguarded and I thought that it was cleverly done: to turn a simple predictable a bit hallow story into an unbelievably and surprisingly memorable read. Unlike the funky style of Jennifer Egan in A Visit From a Goon Squad or the loaded style of Samantha Sotto’s Before Ever After, Foer’s alternating milieus and time periods are not confusing at all and they seem appropriate given the impact, sadness and confusion brought about by 9/11.

My favorite part is when the father said in the telephone: "Are you there? Are you there?" instead of saying "Is anyone there? Is anyone there?" For me this means that the father was hoping that his son was there because that would give him peace of mind. A father always think of his child's life or safety first before his own.

My first time to read a Foer and I am just blown away.
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Reading Progress

November 12, 2011 – Shelved
November 15, 2011 – Started Reading
November 15, 2011 –
page 52
15.95% "Very good writing. Reminded me of Mark Haddon's THE CURIOUS INCIDENT OF A DOG AT NIGHTTIME and Don Delillo's FALLING MAN. Like a marriage of the two novels. :)"
November 20, 2011 –
page 150
46.01% "I hope the too much drama will be compensated in the end. I hope that the pictures, the blank pages and the one-liners will have some meaning in the end."
November 21, 2011 –
page 214
65.64% "Very somewhat different reading experience. There are many small stories inside the big story frame of father who died in the 9/11 attack."
November 23, 2011 –
page 266
81.6% "So sad. Sad. Sad. Sad."
November 24, 2011 –
page 312
95.71% "I had to stop reading this when I came to this page. It made me cry and it was morning and I did not want my day to be sad and gloomy. God, this book is too sad!"
November 25, 2011 –
page 325
99.69% "Done reading. Review to follow."
November 29, 2011 – Shelved as: saddest
November 29, 2011 – Shelved as: drama
November 29, 2011 – Shelved as: family-drama
November 29, 2011 – Shelved as: with-movie
November 29, 2011 – Shelved as: given-away
November 29, 2011 – Finished Reading

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

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message 1: by Sharon (new) - added it

Sharon Reading this one next ... Maybe ... Got 100's of hard copy books to read as well as loads on the Kindle. So got to trawl thru them before I go back to the UK as I can't take them all with me :(

Look forward to your review on it :)

K.D. Absolutely It's an easy book to read, Sharon. I will probably finish this early next week. I look forward to your review too. I am sure, we will have a similar rating considering that we have not really differed on our ratings so far.

Colin McKay Miller It's a good one (but yeah, Foer cheats when it comes to getting the maturity he needs from Oskar).

message 4: by Judy (last edited Nov 29, 2011 12:38PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Judy Excellent balanced review. I like how you addressed both your likes and dislikes. It sounds like he touched you emotionally despite the things that bothered you.

message 5: by Teresa (new)

Teresa I need to read something by JSF one day.

message 6: by Mary (new)

Mary This is one I have had sitting on the to-read for awhile and was reluctant for the unusual style. But I will give this a try soon. I think the variants in style was the reason I kept passing over it but It sounds like I am missing a good story by being too comfortable in traditional writing style!! :) Thanks for such a comprehensive review K.D. !

K.D. Absolutely Thanks for the info, Collin.

T: Yes, my friend said that his "Everything is Illuminated" is better than this. That will be my next. Then I am also planning to read his girlfriend's "The History of Love" as they say that it is also better than this.

Judy: Thanks. It actually almost made me cry. It's so heavy and sometimes felt contrived and emotionally manipulative. But in the end, I think the stylish approach and the appropriate denouement balanced everything out. I really liked it but I just could not give it a five star rating because the plot is really thin. There almost nothing to it in terms of character development.

Marzie: Oh yes, the new style is refreshing and very interesting. The snippets of events in between made me say things like "oh, what is this? who is the one talking? why is this in hiroshima or dresden all of the sudden?"

Jinky Excellent review ..brought it all back to me! Still need to get my hands on the printed book.. want to see those illustrations. Thanks for the reminder. :)

message 9: by K.D. (last edited Nov 29, 2011 04:30PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

K.D. Absolutely Yes, Jinks. Oh yes, I saw your review last night. There are just so many pages with nothing on them, with one lines, pictures, etc. There was even a handful of lines looking like a manuscript with editor's proofreading symbols. I thought that those illustrate the feelings of the characters especially the boy searching for answers to his questions about his father.

message 10: by K.D. (new) - rated it 4 stars

K.D. Absolutely Yes, Emir. Frankly, I had that same feeling in some of the pages of the book. But I think it is part of his grand scheme. In the end of your reading, you would feel that there is a reason for all that "extravagant treatment." Or probably that is his style and he'd like to show the thinking or the feeling of the boy. Kinda neurotic at times really as if the boy is not 9 years old. Colin established that already in his review and his comment above. I actually thought that the boy has Asperger's Syndrome like the boy in A Curious Incident of a Dog in the Night-time but there was no mention of it. Had he been autistic, it would have been more realistic, I think.

Jofer Nice review! (But I'm still hoping na may reading buddy ako ng binasa ko 'to. :D)

message 12: by K.D. (new) - rated it 4 stars

K.D. Absolutely Emir: Remember, I'll give my copy to you as my Christmas gift! :)

Jofer: Hmmm, the book is not difficult to understand. But if you feel a reading buddy would help you, why not? Thanks for the like friend.

message 13: by Teresa (new)

Teresa T: Yes, my friend said that his "Everything is Illuminated" is better than this. That will be my next."

Rhea owns that one, so I'll borrow it from her one day.

Colin McKay Miller I've heard Everything is Illumninated is better, too, but Krauss' History of Love is not as good as Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, though I read them nearly back-to-back (Foer first).

message 15: by K.D. (new) - rated it 4 stars

K.D. Absolutely Colin: Really? Ian (my other friend here whose opinions I really value) rated it with 5 stars.

Colin McKay Miller I will nay-say, Ian; I will nay-say him good!

(Then again, ask him which one he read first -- I think that shapes your opinion.)

message 17: by K.D. (new) - rated it 4 stars

K.D. Absolutely I will send him a PM. :)

message 18: by Rhonda (new) - added it

Rhonda I enjoyed your observation concerning the Tin Drum, a book which is certainly monumental, although I wonder whether it is so because it belongs strictly to literature. When you say that you think that the issue of 9/11 is almost used irresponsibly in this, I suggest (without having read the book, which is perhaps irresponsible in itself,) that this is perhaps an effort to demonstrate our monolithic sense of alienation and the great lengths necessary to evoke the simplicity of true human conviction. In any case, I feel obliged now to at least pick it up and peruse it, for which I thank you.

message 19: by K.D. (new) - rated it 4 stars

K.D. Absolutely Rhonda: Thanks. Well said my friend :)

Aaron Do yourself a favor and read Everything Is Illuminated. In my opinion, it is a far superior novel.

message 21: by K.D. (new) - rated it 4 stars

K.D. Absolutely Yes, I will do that Aaron. Only "Everything is Illuminated" is in the 1001. I only read this because I like Don Delillo's "Falling Man" last year.

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