Title: Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close
Author: Jonathan Safran Foer
Published: 2005; Pages: 326
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!