Ary Nilandari's Reviews > Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close

Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer
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's review
Aug 19, 2007

really liked it

I fell in love with this book right after reading the very first page. Here's the excerpt, and you'll know why.

What The?

What about a teakettle? What if the spout opened and closed when the steam came out, so it would become a mouth, and it could whistle pretty melodies, or do Shakespeare, or just crack up with me? I could invent a teakettle that reads in Dad’s voice, so I could fall asleep, or maybe a set of kettles that sings the chorus of “Yellow Submarine,” which is a song by the Beatles, who I love, because entomology is one of my raisons d’être, which is a French expression that I know.

Another good thing is that I could train my anus to talk when I farted. If I wanted to be extremely hilarious, I’d train it to say, “Wasn’t me!” every time I made an incredibly bad fart. And if I ever made an incredibly bad fart in the Hall of Mirrors, which is in Versailles, which is outside of Paris, which is in France, obviously, my anus would say, “Ce n’étais pas moi!”

What about little microphones? What if everyone swallowed them, and they played the sounds of our hearts through little speakers, which could be in the pouches of our overalls? When you skateboarded down the street at night you could hear everyone’s heartbeat, and they could hear yours, sort of like sonar. One weird thing is, I wonder if everyone’s hearts would start to beat at the same time, like how women who live together have their menstrual periods at the same time, which I know about, but don’t really want to know about. That would be so
weird, except that the place in the hospital where babies are born would sound like a crystal chandelier in a houseboat, because the babies wouldn’t have had time to match up their heartbeats yet. And at the finish line at the end of the New York City Marathon it would sound like war.

Through Oskar Schell, a precocious 9-year old boy, Foer uses first-person narration to tell this story. Oskar is very intelligent and independent, writes letters to Stephen Hawking, designs jewelry, and wanders about New York City wearing only white while playing the tambourine. On 9/11, he discovers the family's answering machine contains 5 messages from his father trapped in the north tower before he dies, and he hides the messages from his mother. Oskar struggles to deal with this inconsolable loss, distancing himself from his mom who eventually finds another man, and dreaming of fanciful inventions that can protect people from harm. When he finds a key in his father's closet with the word "Black" on the envelope holding it. Oskar searches the city for every family named Black in hopes they can tell him the secret of the key, in hopes of understanding his father better.

I have never ventured into a novel written in as unique a style as the one Foer dared to use in this novel. He uses images, type settings, spaces and even blank pages to give the book a visual dimension beyond the prose narrative.

I gave much the same reaction as Oskar often has: “What the?” when finding a single sentence only in the middle of each pages from pp.12-27. Surprisingly, you'll also find the types getting condensed and condensed...till you can't read anything in blackened pp.281-284.

At one point, while out hunting for his father's clues in a game, Oskar searches through a test pad for pens while in a store. The pages of the pad are inserted into the novel, giving readers a sense of actually seeing through Oskar's eyes as they flip through the random colorful signatures.

(Thanks to Oskar, I couldn't help checking scribbling pad in stores even when I didn't plan to buy a pen. he he he, it's really interesting how people sign their names or write color name with a matching colored pen)

The last fifteen pages of Foer's text comprise a flip-book collection of images of a man falling upwards toward the top of the World Trade Center. Oskar identifies the falling man as possibly being his father who died on September 11th. At the end of the book, Oskar imagines his father's last actions before he may have jumped from the North Tower back to the night before September 11th when he tucked Oskar into bed.

"...I found the pictures of the falling body. Was it Dad? Maybe....I ripped the pages out of the book. I reversed the order, so the last one was first, and the first was last. When I flipped through them, it looked like the man was floating up through the sky. And if I'd had more pictures.............we would have been safe."


And I should warn you that Foer masterly uses the 9-years-old language to stir your mixed emotion; I found myself often smiling and close to tears at the same time.
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message 1: by Ida (new) - rated it 4 stars

Ida love this book too, mbak ary :D

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