Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer

Posted 25 October, 2010 by Trish in Reading Nook, Review / 31 Comments

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Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close Cover

Title: Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close
Author: Jonathan Safran Foer
Published: 2005; Pages: 326
Genre: Fiction
Rating: 5/5

Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close is the story of Oskar Schell who two years after his father’s death in 9/11 finds a key amongst his father things.  Oskar begins a journey across New York City in search of the lock that the key will open.  His journey is one that touches the lives of many but mostly his own.

A note on this “review”–nearly completely spoiler free, this is more a jumble of my emotions and what I loved than a coherent review.  I can’t apologize as it’s just that kind of book…

Why I read this book: my sister read for high school last year and told me I HAD to read it. After flipping through the book I was convinced she was right.

What I liked about the book: Oh how I loved loved loved this book. If I’m lucky, once a year a book like this—a book so affecting—will come along and be added to my all-time favorite books list. I haven’t read a book like this since The God of Small Things. Sure, I’ve loved many books since that one, but not one that has shaken my core so violently. The kind that no matter where you are when you’re reading it—even if you’re on the stationary bike at the gym—a passage will immediately make you sob or give you chills or just make you clutch your heart from too much feeling.

Ok, tangible things I loved about the book: Oskar, the heartbreakingly innocent narrator, who wants so badly to understand everything (though there are things he rather not understand). The language and writing—even the repetition of the words “extremely” and “incredibly.” Ohhhh, and how this or that gave Oskar heavy boots. Or how he makes mental notes to look things up later on Google so he can know what it means. How he is confused and lost but searches so diligently to find himself–or a version of himself.

What else: Gushfest, I know. And I apologize for the conversational tone of this post, but ooooh. I wish this is one that I could sit down across from you at a coffee shop and just pour over. The pictures and graphics—how extremely and incredibly moving they are in conjunction with the story. The side stories of the man who is cannot talk and the woman with crummy eyes. The hurt and the pain and the confusion and unknowing and yearning for love and the acceptance and the compassion—the feeling.

I keep coming back to this idea that this book is simply about feeling. And that ultimately, when I put the book down, all I could think about was how much I felt—how this book made me feel. I don’t know how else to describe it and if you’ve read it, let me know if I’m totally off-base with that perception. In terms of the negative or criticisms—this is my third review in a row without any criticisms. Maybe I’m saving it all for Brothers Karamazov? But for now I’m going to go with the awesomeness of zero negativity.

Bottom Line: After I finished the book, I texted my sister to tell her I finished and I loved it. She replied that she was so relieved because she doesn’t feel it’s a book everyone would love. And I agree. This is not a book I can recommend to everyone, but when I try to define who exactly would love this book I’m left without a defined audience. There is definitely a post-modern feel to the book and I think if this sounds interesting to you, you’ll be able to tell really quickly if it’s something that you’ll enjoy or not. It’s not a story that is handed out without any effort by the reader, but it’s not a tough/inaccessible book either. In a way it is as depressing as it is moving.  But so far, in conversations on twitter, etc, I haven’t found another who hasn’t liked the book.

Some incredibly and extremely moving parts:
“I wanted to cry but I didn’t cry, I probably should have cried, I should have drowned us there in the room, ended our suffering, they would have found us floating face-down in two thousand white pages, or buried under the salt of my evaporated tears…” (The man who can’t talk. 124).

“I felt, that night, on that stage, under that skull, incredibly close to everything in the universe, but also extremely alone. I wondered, for the first time in my life, if life was worth all the work it took to live.  What exactly made it worth it?  What’s so horrible about being dead forever, and not feeling anything, and not even dreaming?  What’s so great about feeling and dreaming?” (Oksar. 145).

“‘I’m gonna bury my feelings deep inside me.’ ‘what do you mean, bury your feelings?’ ‘No matter how much I feel, I’m not going to let it out. If i Have to cry, I’m gonna cry on the inside. If I have to bleed, I’ll bruise.  If my heart starts going crazy, I’m not gonna tell everyone in the world about it.  It doesn’t help anything. It just makes everyone’s life worse.’ ‘But if you’re burying your feelings deep inside you, you won’t really be you, will you?'” (Oskar and Therapist. 203).

If you’ve read it, let us know what you thought!

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31 Responses to “Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer”

  1. I love when a book moves you that much! I went ahead and added the book to my BookSwim queue. Thanks for the recommendation!

  2. I admit, the first time I ever heard of this author, it was in a negative (to me) way, with people gushing over his book Eating Animals and talking about how it’ll make you turn vegan. Since I’m very anti-vegan myself and the conversations on twitter that followed people urging me to read the book turned pretty ugly, I’ve wanted nothing to do with this author ever since. I didn’t realize this one was fiction until reading your review. I got the impression of him as writing only contraversial, inflamatory, politically-based nonfiction books.

    Reading this review, I might actually decide to give him a try one day, though definitely not the nonfiction!! The set-up of this book sounds interesting, like something I might enjoy if it’s done right.

  3. I read Everything is Illuminated and loved the creativity of Foer’s writing. I actually have Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close in both print and audio forms — I’m not sure why I haven’t picked it up yet! It seems I have no excuse.

    I don’t mind the “conversational” tone of your review at all. I love it when bloggers get so excited about a book they can’t stick to their usual review style. It makes me think, Wow, she REALLY loved this book!

  4. Inspiring review. I, too, really enjoyed this one. I’m kinda saving Everything is Illuminated because I want to know there is “another” left to read.

  5. I recently got my hands on a copy of Everything Is Illuminated, but haven’t yet read anything by this author. Glad to see you really loved this one. I’ll have to give it a try at some point.

  6. I haven’t heard of this author, but after reading your review I am desperate for this book. Your gushing has overflowed down the internet wire urging me to buy!

  7. Don’t apologise for the gushing or the conversational tone! I love Trish bookish enthusiasm :D I adored this book too – and Everything is Illuminated, which made me cry my eyes out and which I possibly loved even more.

  8. I want to read this!!! And I’m glad you reviewed this because I’ve been wanting to read it since I read another “gushfest” (hehe) about it but I was mistaken and was thinking it was Everything Was Illuminated… no, it was THIS one that I want to read! So now I know! I hope I love it as much as you did!!

  9. OMG Trish, I want to go pull this book off of my shelf like right now!! I still haven’t read any Foer! But after seeing the film version of Everything is Illuminated I went out and bought that and this one…at least I think I have this one..if I don’t, you’re totally getting a point for it :p And don’t you dare apologize for the conversational tone of the review! Those are my favorite kinds of reviews :)

  10. Hmmm, I tried reading this once, but didn’t get very far into it before I put it down and never picked it up again. Maybe I should give it another try.

  11. You sold it to me Trish! I wish someday in a coffee shop I get to meet you and discuss a book we both love.
    And yes, I LOVED God of Small Things :)

  12. *Kate – I hope you like it—it’s such an interesting book and I hope you find it just as moving.

    *Amanda – No, nothing controversial or inflammatory about this one. Not even sure if it’s really political as the narrator is 9 years old and quite naïve. I do wonder, though, if you’d be annoyed with the postmodern elements? It’s a little disjointed, but not in a way that’s unreadable.

    *Heatherlo – Isn’t this book outstanding? Wish I could find more books like this one!

    *Erin – I need to get Everything is Illuminated immediately (though I know it will be a while before I read it). And yes, I really did love this book. Seems people like EiI better but still haven’t heard anyone say they haven’t liked this one!

    *Buried in Print – Yay! Another one who saves books by authors they love so that they don’t run out. I was thinking I might be insane for doing this. ;)

    *WordLily – Doesn’t seem like he has many to choose from—at least not fiction. I hope you like this one when you get to him soon!

    *DiaryofanEccentric – I hope you like EiL–from discussions on Twitter it seems people love that one even more than this!

    *Bermuda – I’m always afraid I’ve overdone it with my gushy–oversold the book…but I hope you like it.

    *Vivienne – Like I said above, I hope I didn’t over do it, but I really did love this book. Hope you do, too, Viv.

    *Nymeth – EiL is definitely going on the top of my wishlist, though I don’t want to read it too soon for fear that Foer won’t come out with anything new and I’ll be left with nothing! But I look forward to it. ;)

    *Jenny – Well I’m glad I’m not the only one who’s gushing over this book. I really hope you love it as much as I do as well. It’s a very different book.

    *Stpehanie – I’m curious–did you not like Everything Was Illuminated as much as you hoped? I’m kind of searching for a bit of negative to balance all of the elation over Foer.

    *Chris – Hurrah–I’ll take that point. I think you’d really love this book Chris…it’s just one of those books that gets under your skin and burrows. Read it soon!!

    *Blacksheep – As I mentioned, I can see how the stylistic choices and dark tone of this book can be offputting or tough to get into. If you do end up finishing I’ll be really curious what you think.

    *Veens – Isn’t God of Small Things great? Love that book. And yes, how fun would it be to sit down together and chat? :)

  13. Sigh. Your review makes me need to read this again real soon. This was honestly one of my all time favorite books. You are so right about the fact that it will make you sob no matter where you are. I don’t think I’ve ever been so moved the way I was with this novel. JSF is one of my favorite authors because of this book. Everything is Illuminated was good but I read it after EL&IC so it didn’t have the same WOW factor for me. I fell too hard for Oskar and his heavy boots!

    This does make me excited for The God of Small Things. I’ve had this on my shelf for about 3 years. A friend gave it to me and really recommended it. I just never got around to it.

    Great review!

  14. Oh Trish!!!! I can’t tell you how much I love this review!!!! Because I just totally “got it” if you know what I mean. That rare-but-oh-so-freakin’-incredible feeling of a book that just speaks to you on every level. Carl reviewed this book not too long ago, and after reading it I just had to buy it. And Trish, before I even started typing this comment, I went and pulled the book off my shelves and stuck in on my nightstand…I am definitely reading this one soon thanks to you!!!

  15. I don’t know another book that has made me cry as much as this one did. Possibly Marcus Zusak’s I Am the Messenger, but that was a good sort of crying.

  16. I keep seeing this at stores and I love the cover. I also heard someone talk once about reading this author and completely having his mind blown, like it was the best thing that ever happened. Unfortunately, I think that person was talking smack about it, like he was an idiot college student or something, and was amazed by the not amazing.

    But this sounds amazing, and I like that it seems creative. Isn’t he married to Jennifer Egan, or something? Because that would be a ridiculous amount of talent in one house. If they had kids, I bet it’d turn out to be a dumb jock. Not that there’s anything wrong with being a dumb jock.

  17. Trish, I absolutely love this book!

    Have you read The History of Love by his wife, Nicole Krauss? I think you might like that one, too

  18. My son’s best friend recently bought this; sounds like I need to borrow it as soon as he’s done with it.

  19. Great review. I loved this, as well and also did a very random scattered review of it! I think I am hesitant to suggest this book when I hear that people don’t like child narrators… Otherwise, it does take a caveat, doesn’t it?