Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Extremely loud and incredibly close

Foer, Jonathan Safran. Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2005.

Pre-review thoughts.
I'm writing this about two weeks after finishing the book and about two minutes after reading Harry Siegel's rant/review. The book is neither as good as Harry claims it is touted to be, nor as vile as he claims. Harry's point is that Foer steals stylistically from other authors. And? I tend to believe people always steal from each other, especially ideas. I'm always hearing about how nothing truly new can be created anymore. It's all been done before. But I, like so many others of my age, find amusement and comfort in the appropriation and recontextualization (or the stealing and making your own) of words. We quote the Simpsons ("D'oh!")and The Princess Bride with alarming frequency ("You keep using that word! I do not think it means what you think it means!") We title our blog entries with song lyrics. Our myspace "who we want to meet" reference last night's "The Office." And when we feel really creative we interweave other people's poetry into our own prose, and we do it almost as an automatic response, like blinking in the sun when you walk out of a building.
Actual review.
Oskar Schell lost his dad in the September 11th, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center. He spends all of the book trying to figure out the last living puzzle his dad put together and by doing so work through all of his issues with his dad's death. The entire book is this sort of personal journey, a bit overblown and occasionally too detailed and slow. There are extremely enjoyable bits (the fan-mail responses are some of my favorites.) And some incredibly not enjoyable bits (the stream of consciousness letters got old after a bit. I stopped caring about Oskar's grandfather five minutes into his first ravings.) I liked the puzzling bits, and Oskar's determination. The turn of phrase, which Siegel seems to despise (or at least dismiss offhand), are now a part of my vocabulary ("Heavy Boots" means I'm sad, and now when I like something I describe it as being "100 dollars.") I like the omniscient mother who let's Oskar be Oskar (though I do agree with Siegel here that in real life I would find Oskar a small but too precious and tiring prat.) The story is best unfolded slowly. It took me several weeks to finish, just taking it in chapter by chapter as a soothing bedtime story. I like the wrap up of the book. It ends bittersweetly. This book and a book I reviewed earlier, Maynard and Jennica, both make me have somewhat warmer fuzzier feelings then I ever have had in the past about New Yorkers and New York in general.

No comments:

Post a Comment