Friday, October 16, 2009

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

I have been meaning to read Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close for a long time...either since it came out, or since I read Foer's other book, Everything is Illuminated - I don't remember which happened first. I LOVED Everything is Illuminated. It's one of the best books I ever read. It was funny, moving, quirky, terribly sad. And it was awesome. So obviously I was looking forward to EL&IC, but also a little afraid...I was afraid it would be like my "relationship" with F. Scott Fitzgerald: The Great Gatsby absolutely blew me away when I read it in 10th grade, and since then I have read other Fitzgerald novels, but none of them are as good. He knocked it out of the ball park with Gatsby, and how could you rival that? So I have been timid about Extremely Loud - what if it just wasn't as good...then I would be disappointed.

But EL&IC did NOT disappoint. Within the first dozen or so pages I was laughing out loud: "Succotash my Balzac, dip shiitake!" But as I said, there is a pervasive sadness, centered around 9/11. This isn't my first 9/11 novel. It seems to have become like my Holocaust novels - I keep reading them. Their sadness is different from other tragic books, because you know what happens. From the very beginning, I knew how Oskar lost his father. You know what is going to happen, what the narrative is circling around. And it doesn't even need to be stated. Foer didn't need to say, "those messages were left on the phone on September 11th." It needn't be said - we know. It's not a novel about 9/11, but rather a novel in the shadow of 9/11.

It takes a lot for a novel - or anything really - to move me, especially to move me to tears, and this one did - and more than once. This book gave me "heavy boots." I finished it yesterday, and I can still feel its weight.

I know that Foer often gets mixed reviews, but I think that he is my favorite contemporary writer. The more I read, the more I like. Tragicomedy must be my thing. With EL&IC, I would definitely recommend having read Grass's The Tin Drum first. It's certainly not necessary, but there are a lot of parallels, which really enhance the reading.

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