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Jonathan Safran Foer – Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

Posted in Book reviews, and Fiction

I’m someone with deep love for quotes. I’ve been writing them in various notebooks, documents, my phone, on (often lost) pieces of paper – simply almost everywhere, about whatever I found interesting. Once I came across following quote:

Sometimes I can hear my bones straining under the weight of all the lives I’m not living.

Then, I knew I want to read the book where it comes from. So I did, few years later. Unfortunately, no matter how many poignant/insightful expressions concerning life’s trauma there were, I wish the whole story were more convincing.

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close is a story of a nine year old Oskar Shell, extraordinarily smart kid with wide range of interest from writing letters to being inventor. Unfortunately, Oskar‘s childhood is emotionally scarred by the death of his father in the collapse of the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. After an incidental finding of a mysterious key in father’s belognings, Oskar sets off to find out who is the mentioned person named Black, and what’s this key from. I loved that idea.

There are many imaginative concepts throughout the book, as well as distinctive naming of feelings/situations. The most used one is Oskar wearing heavy boots. In the beginning I was expecting to get to know more about this expression – where does it come from, is it something he learned from his deceased father? Well, maybe, but we have to guess not only its origin, but also its real meaning. Were these heavy boots a metaphor for Oskar being sad, anxious, depressed, scared, all together? Sure, it points out somewhere this direction, but there’s actually a huge difference amongst aforementioned emotions, so why leave readers guessing?

Also, as Jonathan himself lives in New York, I would expect him to dig little bit more into the issue of emotional trauma all New York citizens have been through. It could be much more authentic – of course if he would also left out things like replaced phone, all the welcoming, well-meaning people from various boroughs, and Oskar’s omniscient supermother.

I’d also do without, for many surely original visual writing, including lots of doorknob pictures, unreadable letters and other pieces, probably belogning to Oskar’s scrapbook called Stuff That Happened to Me. Letters from Oskar’s grandparents were completely insignificant for me and in the end rather confusing.

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close could aspire to become another The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon, however Jonathan’s writing felt way too pretentious. There were many quotable expressions in Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, but the same applies to another author’s book Eating Animals; so far the best book I’ve read regarding ethics of eating animals. Dealing with more visual terror and despite that having higher literary quality, I would love to read more from Jonathan Safran Foer; in the field of non-fiction.

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