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Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close
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2014 Reading Adventures > Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

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Madelyn Grace (literarymaddness) | 74 comments Mod

Just a reminder that if you have done so already, Erin, Gene and I are taking entries for our unofficial book giveaway. Please send us your information in a message, thank you.

Happy Reading!

1. Talk about Oskar—an unusually precious child. Do you find him sympathetic or annoying? Or both?

2. For Shakespeare buffs: Oskar "plays Yorick" (the long dead jester whose skull Hamlet holds in his hand!) in a school production. What is the significance of that role? (See Hamlet: Act V, Scene I, Line 188).

3. Jonathan Safran Foer has said that he writes about characters and their excommunications: some characters think they're saying a lot but say nothing; others say nothing but end up saying a lot. Which characters fall into which category in Extremely Loud? What might Foer be saying about our ability to communicate deep-seated emotions?

4. Some critics have wondered where Oskar's mother is and how the child is left alone to wander the streets of New York alone at night. Is that a relevant comment? Do you see this book as a work of realism (in which case the mother's role would matter) ... or as more of a fable, on the order, say, of Life of Pi? If the latter, what is Extremely Loud a fable of? (Like Pi, Oskar seems to be a quester—but of what?)

5. Do you find the illustrations, scribbling, over-written texts, etc. a meaningful, integral part of the work? Or do you find them distracting and gimmicky? Why are they there?

6. How do both main plot and subplot (Oskar's grandfather and the bombing of Dresden) interweave with one another?

message 2: by Erin (last edited Feb 04, 2014 05:46PM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Erin | 104 comments Mod
Gimmick should be the title. Faulkner did stream of consciousness better, and it was annoying when he did it.

Oskar is presented as precious, precocious and possibly suffering from autistim or Ausperger's syndrome. I doubt Foer has ever spent much time with someone who has Ausperger's. Not so sure about the other issues, but I find Oskar annoying. I feel badly for him when he is bullied at school, but he seems more of a caricature than a true portrait of a person. He constantly mentions his fear of everything, then he wanders New York City alone for months. If this story is intended to be a fable, that might explain why Oskar, and some of the other characters seem so odd. Grandma and Grandpa certainly explain a lot about Oskar's personality quirks! Also, if the story is a fable, the mother's absence is explained because children are almost always orphaned in fairy tales and fables. The peril and danger are not as great if the child appears to have parental guidance. I suppose this fable would be a search for meaning in senseless loss, or perhaps, a fable showing the tragedy of war. The bombing of Dresden and the bombing of 9/11 tie together the generations, Oskar and his grandparents, as well as the loss of family, innocence and connections between human beings.

The writings from Grandma and Grandpa are great exposition, but they are a little weird if you take the idea of them being written to their son or grandson literally. Eew, no one wants to read about their grandparent's sex life. I realize they are more for dramatic license, but the drama dies when all you can think is "ick" when you are supposed to be absorbed in the story. Luckily, I read the digital version of the book, so I missed most of the illustrations, etc. Mostly, I got an inserted line saying "3 blank pages" or the like. I adore books written in letter form and really enjoyed Griffin and Sabine, which has actual letters, postcards and other objects. I assume Foer intended for Oskar's fractured emotional state and life after his father's death to be displayed through these additions.

Foer must have taken the novel's name from the graveyard scene with Yorik. Oskar spends the novel remembering his days with his father. He even goes so far as to dig up his coffin and rebury it with the letters. I'm guessing Foer is mimicking the scene throughout the novel, but it never really touched me. I spent most of the novel annoyed at one character or another, or wondering how the father managed to come out of such a weird family and seem relatively normal. He seems to have taken Oskar's personality in stride, but then he had his mother's example!

Overall, not my favorite book. As I mentioned earlier, Faulkner did it better. I probably should have skipped this one and reread The Sound and The Fury.

Matt I enjoyed this book. It never even dawned on me that this might have been written in the style of a fable similar to "Life of Pi". I think that the characters seemed peculiar because they were peculiar.
I sympathized with Oskar in his desire to find closure in his father's death. Yes, he was socially awkward and I do think that Foer was insinuating that he Oskar has Asperger's Syndrome or something similar. I enjoyed his quest to find meaning of the key and vase he finds in his father's closet and all of the people he met along the way.
The tie in with grandparents show us that tragedies happen throughout history and that people deal with them very differently.
This novel renewed a lot of 9/11 emotions in me.


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