Thursday, January 26, 2006

12. "Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close" ~ Jonathan Safran Foer

I think we've reached an age of cynicism, whether it's doubting the authenticity of a memoir writer's tales or the abilities of our chosen leaders. The accusations read like finger jabs as exclamation points -- "She was shopping for SHOES while this happened!" "He didn't have a BACKGROUND in disasters!" "Her dad never KILLED the cow with a pitchfork!" "He was only in jail for THREE days!" "The FBI was using the WRONG picture the ENTIRE time!"

I assume that much of this is the post-honeymoon of 9-11. After singing "Tie a Yellow Ribbon" and raising the American flag and tearfully attending funerals of eighteen- and nineteen-year-olds, the blue state murmurs became an underlying hum.

Like the whispers in "Lost," you can understand them if you listen closely. Besides the accusations, there are many questions. And, as is typical of humans, it comes back to "me, me, me." Why am I here? What is the purpose of life, specifically, what is my purpose in this life? Or is it possible that all of this paper-pushing, all of this monotony is for naught?

Safran Foer's novel has taken on these questions and so much more. Love, passion, the difference between the two. Anger, hatred, the difference between the two. The differences not being so different, and the similarities infinite.

Oskar Schell, a nine-year-old super-nerd, finds a key and thinks it is a final test from his father (who died in the 9-11 attacks). Precocious is an understatement; it took me five pages to get past the blind ADD-like rants of this character, especially because I listen to it all too often at home. But, oh, is it worth it.

Safran Foer has created a masterful story and embellished it with the "post-modern" twist of photos (see Eggers). The last collage made me weep and I'm far from PMSing. I still get goosebumps thinking of it.

Oskar's journey would be worthless if not for the clever letters telling the history of his grandparents, a story of its own. The weaving of these parallel lives and symbols is breath-taking. Upon closing the book, I stared at the cover for several minutes, enjoying the after-buzz. Books: Sometimes Better Than Sex.

One quibble keeps it from a perfect score, but it's minor (the disappearance of a character, which could be construed as symbolic of the entire piece).

4.99 out of 5.0 Bronx Terrace Cocktails

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I'm glad your doing this book cause I read it and didn't know what to think. I got all sad but the kid frustrated me. I didn't really think about symbolism but now that you say that it makes me rethink the whole book. I might read it again