Nine Year Old Oskar Schell Is An Inventor, Amateur Entomologist, Francophile, Letter Writer, Pacifist, Natural Historian, Percussionist, Romantic, Great Explorer, Jeweller, Detective, Vegan, And Collector Of Butterflies When His Father Is Killed In The September Th Attacks On The World Trade Centre, Oskar Sets Out To Solve The Mystery Of A Key He Discovers In His Father S Closet It Is A Search Which Leads Him Into The Lives Of Strangers, Through The Five Boroughs Of New York, Into History, To The Bombings Of Dresden And Hiroshima, And On An Inward Journey Which Brings Him Ever Closer To Some Kind Of Peace Aapt title would have been Terribly Artificial and Unbearably Pretentious This seems like the kind of thing I would have thought was a profound idea when I myself was nine, laboring on crayon illustrations to include with my manuscript into the wee hours of the morning Maybe that means Foer succeeded I happen to think it means his efforts were an abject failure, and that he has a great many readers and critics completely snowed.With a book like this, you either accept it as charming wistfulness, or you don t You either think random tabbing on pages is innovative, or you don t You think empty pages and single phrases on other pages is a daring deconstruction of traditional publishing s, or you don t I don t.Foer s grieving young narrator is a ridiculous creation, the book s pagination is something a stricter editor should have vomited upon, and the situations in which Oskar finds himself are fabricated of glitter encrusted papier m ch This story is never once believable therefore any emotion generated is as phony as a three dollar bill Now don t misunderstand I read lots of far fetched books, so I believe genuine emotion can be achieved through stories about the tooth fairy, WMDs, sympathetic lawyers or any number of myths But too many times in this book, people do things just to do them, and things happen just to have them happen or to give Foer scanty reason to wax poetic for pages at a time without such bourgeoisie restrictions as paragraphs or punctuation or sensible storytelling muddling up the artiste s vision.Foer s stream of consciousness narrative reminds me of the saying about the infinite monkeys sooner or later one of an infinite number of monkeys on an infinite number of typewriters is going to randomly type the complete works of Shakespeare Except in Foer s case, it s as though he was one of the monkeys in the middle of infinity, a bright but underachieving chimpanzee picking nits and banging the keys petulantly with a hardened piece of fecal matter If Foer wished to write a thick book entirely in free verse broken up with pictures now and again so people don t become bored , then he should have had the cajones to do so, not foist this vanity project upon the public under the guise of a novel claiming to be about reaction to 9 11.This is a book for a self important Attention Deficit society I think most people in today s age of texting while driving and non stop news alerts and picture in picture don t actually read every word on the page anyway They scan pages looking for the good stuff, and that s all they remember So therefore they re not put off by the author s interminable ramblings, his attempt to bludgeon the reader with a thick blanket of nonsensical phrases, hoping they will be distracted into thinking they come together to create some sort of profound stew greater than the sum of its silly parts But for those of us who think each word matters, this practice is annoying subterfuge, and ultimately meaningless. There must be something wrong with me I m not as smart as my goodreader friends I lack empathy My humor is deficient I have no compassion And I suck at life.Of the 40 of you friends who read this, this is how you rated it 5 stars 18 people 4 stars 13 people3 stars 7 people2 stars 2 people1 star 0 peopleSomething wrong with me indeed Or something wrong with all of you No I didn t finish it I value opportunity and freedom too much for that I listened to it People tell me if I had read it instead of listening to it I would have liked itI now tell them that I don t care.I have returned this grouping of compact discs to my local library They are now safely out of my hands Its twelve separate discs no longer have to worry about me yelling obscenities at them extremely loudly They need not be concerned that they get thrown again at the passenger side door, incredibly closely.So go away Jonathan Safran Foer Don t cry for me Argentina It s your birthday, don t cry if you want to Stop your sobbing I was crying just to get you, now I m dying cause I let you do what you do down on me Or not Okay, please don t Seriously, I ve had enough You are cheesy and you annoy me I m done So take your forced cuteness and your vegan cupcakes and go home. When Thomas Pynchon invented what James Wood later named hyper realism , he did literature no favors To read Pynchon is to witness genius at its most joyless A mind capable of inventing myriad things and compelled to record them all But at least Pynchon showed genius.What Jonathan Safran Foer shows, however, is mere gimmickry Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close takes readers who thought they might have seen a glimmer of greatness in Everything is Illuminated and convinces them all they really saw were special effects.It s very difficult to read Foer s second novel without reflecting on his first Everything is Illuminated began in such an original way that a reader forgave the 150 or so dull pages of less than compelling writing that came along throughout the rest of the book The reader forgave the puerile reflections on the Holocaust and the manufactured confession of homosexuality Because the book began so originally.But Foer is a one trick pony In Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, he s onceco opted a mass tragedy and made a fruit salad of it with various voices and narrative tricks Oh sure, the book has an underlying tone of sadness sadness, not seriousness because, clever as he wants to be, Foer didn t dare go wholehog with a tragedy still as fresh as 9 11 But that s about the only restriction he put on his vanity.To indulge himself with a hundred irritating digressions and quips, Foer invented a child narrator This has becomeandcommon among the hyper realism set in the last 10 years Raised by guidance counselors who told them to never stop being childish, these novelists give us hundreds of pages of exploring their inner child all under the guise of serious artistic endeavor.But this is not serious art This is an author who makes the easy choice every time When he thinks he has something profound to say, he doesn t hesitate to have his nine year old narrator couch things in college level language The rest of the time, when he feels like writing about whichever page of the encyclopedia he happened to turn to that morning, he has the little professor wander off wherever he wishes, always with a literary safety net that says, I m trying to depict the world through a child s eyes But we should ask ourselves why a novelist feels compelled to depict a mass tragedy through a child s eyes After all, this isn t biography Foer could have depicted the tragedy through anyone s eyes at all Better put, when he sat down to write about the savagery of Napoleon s 1812 battle with Russia, why didn t Leo Tolstoy depict the burning of Moscow through the eyes of a nine year old and his nutty and mute grandfather Probably because a nine year old would have limited Tolstoy s vocabulary too drastically a nine year old doesn t know enough to say anything original about war.Tolstoy, in other words, was too concerned about making an original commentary to worry about being a fresh new voice in the contemporary fiction scene Tolstoy took a large subject and made it larger Foer takes a large subject and makes it tiny But sometimes, I ve learned, large things must be tiny. That s how Foer s narrator would say it And he d be wrong, of course But then, that s why we don t publish books written by nine year olds. Extremely Precocious and Incredibly Irritating I m Oskar with a k like Liza with a Z cause Oskar with a k is krazy also kind, klever and kultured I m 10 going on Dalai Lama I make jewellery I know and collect butterflies who have died naturally and play a tambourine constantly You have to wonder why no one has killed me since I must drive people insane with my maximum cuteness Oh, and have shortwave radio conversations with my grandma over in another desirable residence in the Upper West Side I have empathy for every living thing including you This great and terrible tragedy happened to me so nobody, not even those horrid GR people, can make fun of me, even when I m so twee a hobbit would thwow up all over the nearest elf This is the way I speak with my MomMom Yes Nothing What is it, baby Well it s just that wouldn t it be great if mattresses had spaces for your arm, so that when you rolled on to your side, you could fit just right That would be nice And good for your back, probably, because it would let your spine be straight, which I know is important That is important Also, it would make snuggling easier And making snuggling easier is important Very Here, you can use this bin, or the sink, whichever I m so kloying and keen to make everyone s lives better by befriending deaf centenarians and lonely billionaires and dragging them off on eccentric heart twanging dead father related quests that Amelie from that kooky French movie Amelie would be out cloyed and out eccentriced at every turn would have to throw herself out of my window wearing a birdseed dress which is an invention of mine for suicides by defenestration as the birdseed would attract birds who would carry the person aloft thus prevent their self destruction Okay maybe when the birdseed was gone then the person would plummet, but I don t think that far about any of my kooky schemes, magical children who could never possibly exist don t do that My brain is just naturally like Pixar HD I ll invent an invisibility suit that has a camera on my back that takes video of everything behind me and plays it onto a plasma screen that I ll wear on my front, which will cover everything but my face It ll look like I m not there at all.You may be wondering how I got to be like I am Well, there s a long line of cutesypie narrators in my family My grandfather, frinstance He s tweer than me Is that a word It is now He explained How I Met Your Grandmother like this I had so much to ask her, Do you lie on your stomach and look for things under the ice Do you like plays Do you like it when you can hear something before you can see it in the middle of my youth, in the middle of Europe, in between our two villages, on the verge of losing everything, I bumped into something and was knocked to the ground at first I thought I d walked into a tree, but then the tree became a person I would like to explain that I am depressed about my father but as I m in this novel I don t call it that, I say I m wearing heavy bootsI would also like to say that what with all this smiling through tears, the grandma, the grandfather, the old guy who can hear again, the mom who is probably schmoozing with some guy in the next room, the sad quest to find the Blacks of New York, AND 9 11 AND let s throw Hitler into the mix, you don t have to look any further for a dictionary definition of emotional blackmail. Today while tutoring, I ve met with one student right at 1 and another at 4 In between those times, I read Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close Perhaps that was not the smartest thing to doSometimes I find the book so funny that I laugh out loud Which is fine if I had a quiet laugh, but I don t And I tutor in a common meeting space which is a center room with offices surrounding it Clearly, everyone in the office knew I was getting paid to laugh at what I was reading I felt bad if I was working, I wouldn t want to hear someone who was getting paid to read laughing In my defense, at least everyone could see that writing matters to me and I appreciate quality literature, which further proves my already established qualifications as a tutor.But then I got to the climax of the book, and I was moved by how the climax was written because it felt so real to me, because it captured how I feel and think if those things could be replicated in language other than poetry , and I loved the characters as I love my families, and I loved the twist in the plot and how it came together in a way I didn t think it would come together because I was being skeptical and I thought it would betrite, so I m reading in the middle of this common room but I wouldn t call it reading as much as I would call it immersing myself into the novel when I start crying Once the tears got in the way of my reading, I looked away from the page to wipe them, and realized I wasn t at home I was in the Student Athletics Department I was tutoring I had to pull my shit together.What I love is that a book could do that to me That it could inspire me to write, to live, to not be afraid, to not be embarrassed when I bawl at work I love this book so much I m going to buy a copy of it I would marry it if I wasn t married to FD I want to put Kiedrowski s frosting on it and eat it.I love the multi genre ness of it It s brave and out there and absolutely gorgeous.I still have one chapter left Once I started crying, I thought maybe I should wait until I was home to finish it just in case I need to sob for a couple of minutes or hours.It s moments like these that make me happy to be a reader, and evenso a writer It s almost 9 p.m., and I finished the book I didn t cry I didn t sob I just finished it while BBQ ing tonight s dinner Chicken, roasted potatoes, and broccoli , ate dinner while watching the newest Deadliest Catch, cleaned up, and talked to Pops What s funny is, though, all the while I was doing this business, I was thinking about this book And I have a feeling I m going to think about this book for a long while Like when I see a great film that moves me, it sticks with me, such as Dancer in the Dark.And when I read something so good, like Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, I believe in Godthan any other time in my life Because without God how could such a great book come into existence Or such a great author who is able to write such a great book And then such a great mind And the food such a great mind eats And the air such a great mind breathes You probably can see where this is going I can t review this book like other books Mostly because I m too emotional right now But I can say if you read this blog, you should this book, if you haven t already.And before I give my HK rating, a fellow McGuire Facebook buddy said about Foer s book, it s seriously chronic i already bought Everything is Illuminated Chronic, people Dr Dre and Snoop would be up on this shit C mon For the first time ever and maybe only time ever5 Hello Kittys. Extremely Loud and Incredbily Close Jonathan Foer s novel of love, loss, and memoryThere are events that leave an indelible stamp on us for a great portion of our lives This happens from generation to generation.Ask those living at the time of the attack on Pearl Harbor where they were and what they were doing, they will be able to tell you the answer Similarly, ask me where I was when I heard John F Kennedy was shot, I can tell you.Ask what I was doing when the attacks of 9 11 occurred, I can tell you I had arrived at work at the District Attorney s Office My chief side kick with whom I was working prep for a trial, ran into the grand jury room and said turn on the television I did What I saw was something I could not accept Jonathan Foer goes far past the point of remembrance Foer drops you into the shoes of 8 year old Oskar Schell For him, 9 11 is not simply an event which he will remember for its historical significance It is an event he lives daily because he lost his father that day And the event is brought home to him, for he has a cell phone with his father s messages sent from the twin towers that day This is a secret he keeps from his mother, for he wants to protect her from the pain of those messages It is an incredible burden for a child to bear Oskar is left with a gamut of guilt and fears, resulting in a state of vicarious traumatic response to his father s death His grief is all thepalpable because he is extremely gifted and incredibly cursed with an intelligence fargifted than children his age.Oskar shared a bond with his father, who fostered that intelligence, by devoting great attention on his son, gently lulling him to sleep at nights by reading him the New York Times and circling the errors they found in red ink His father challenged Oskar s intelligence by setting up questions for Oskar to solve, leaving clues amounting to a trail of breadcrumbs leading him to a solution of the problems he designed for him.Or did he Did his father actually do this Or is this something which Oskar has perceived in his mind alone The action of this novel occurs a year after the fall of the Towers Oskar is still dealing with the traumatization of his father s loss In an effort to keep the memory of his father close, Oskar frequently hides in his father s closet where the scent of his father s shaving still lingers in his mind, if only in his mind.A bundle of memories and his fears cripple Oskar in his dealings with others, especially his schoolmates, whom are not affected by the fall of the Towers as Oskar is Nor does Oskar perceive his mother to be as deeply affected by the loss of his father She has a new friend, Ron, who becomes a frequent visitor to the apartment Oskar hears their laughter in the living room, as he hides in his father s closet At one point, typical of a child, he tells his mother he wishes it had been her who died that day It is something a child would say, intentionally hurting the remaining parent, then immediately struck with the hurt he inflicted on his mother whom he loved without question.There are strong clues that while Oskar is undoubtedly a prodigy of intelligence far beyond his years, that Oskar just might suffer fromthan childhood fears Is it that Oskar is afflicted by Asperger s Syndrome A look into the Diagnostic Services Manual I believe we re in the fifth edition of that psychological cookbook, now, reveals that this is a distinct possibility.Oskar is enveloped in a net of pattern and design, a characteristic shared by children with this diagnosis He is awkward in his social interactions Nor does he seem to grasp the results of his actions in social settings Play on words which Oskar finds hilarious are lost and misunderstood by those around him Oskar s behavior in filling daybooks with events that have happened to him, including other tragic events occurring before and after 9 11 take on a ritualistic quality, echoing some of the characteristics shared by those diagnosed with Asperger s, which is considered a sub diagnosis of autism It is a matter of degree, not an exclusion from that diagnosis.That Oskar is unaware of the consequences of his behavior on his teacher and his fellow students is clear In graphic detail, he explains the results of the bombing of Hiroshima, sharing a video interview with a survivor of the first use of an atomic bomb against a civilian population.That Osckar s last name is Schell is a clever device used to great benefit by Foer For Oskar is a veritable Chambered Nautilus consisting of impenetrable chambers of secrets revealed only by gently bisecting the shell of a nautilus.Oskar s mother carries her son to be counseled by Doctor Fein, who is anything but fine in his ability to reach Oskar and release him from all the fears held within him, brought about from his father s death.It is only through Oskar s discovery of one last mystery he believes was left him by his father to solve, that Oskar begins to live outside himself and become engaged with people outside his immediate family that just might allow him to move forward from the prison of the loss of his father.Quite by accident, Oskar spies a blue vase on the top shelf of his father s closet Stacking his works of Shakespeare in his father s closet, Oskar stretches to reach the vase, only to tip it off the shelf, shattering it on the floor of the closet It contains a key, with an envelope Written on the envelope is the word Black written in red ink.Oskar determines that the answer to his father s last mystery is the key and someone named Black Although the number of locks in New York City is mind shattering, Oskar, a child of the internet, decides to track down all the Blacks in New York City in an effort to find the secret of what the key opens.It is this journey, if anything, that will allow Oskar to move beyond the death of his father and live his own life.Foer, in a display of brilliance, introduces us to Oskar s grandmother and the grandfather, Oskar never knew Thomas Schell, for whom Oskar s father was named, also is trapped within the memories of another terrible incident in Human history, the firebombing of Dresden The elder Thomas, although once capable of speech, can no longer speak a word, but communicates by writing in blank day books He disappeared before the birth of Oskar s father We learn of the elder Thomas s history through his letters to his unborn child and through his life with Oskar s grandmother, who lives in an apartment building across the street from Oskar Oskar and his grandmother communicate by walkie talkies at all times of the day and night.It is through the writings of the elder Thomas Schell that we experience first hand the horror of living through one of the great acts of inhumanity against man the fire bombing of Dresden during World War II by the Royal Airforce and the United States 8th Airforce from February 13 15th, 1945 Those events leave Thomas Schell a man forever changed.The beauty of Foer s novel is the answer he provides in the resolution of Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. We recover from the tragedies of our lives through the bonds we share with others This is the ultimate beauty of life.While some critics, and some readers, find Foer s novel, manipulative and cloyingly sweet, I find it an affirmation of life To paraphrase Faulkner s Nobel Acceptance Speech, it is through reaching out to others that not only are we able to endure, it is the way we prevail.This is a solid 6 Stars literary masterpiece If it makes you cry, take joy for the fact Foer reminds us we are human, not only capable of acts of inhumanity, but also capable of acts of great love and forgiveness. well, i m naturally drawn to those people who are overwhelmed by existence, by people who hurt too easily who, for them, life seems to be almost too much for whom the unceasing cacophony of thought and memory and idea is just too painful and all the cruelty and the violence is inconceivable and the mystery of life and love and foreverness and the past and all of it is just overwhelming to the point in which one wishes one could scream so loud that it would just make it all go away, that one could exorcise all of it, that one could just somehow leave, just leave their body and leave the planet and get away from all the people and all the loss and all the memories that sit in the stomach and the chest and the throat and just get away from death and from the monotony of everyday life and also from the hysteria of those moments, those big lifechangers, and leave behind the fact that he will die and that everyone he knows or ever has known will one day be a slab of meat in a wooden box it s too much sometimes and fuck if you are a writer that can somehow come up with the means to tell a story, a small story even, to summarize the totality of what it means to be alive on planet earth and to live amongst and around all these people and memories and ghosts and all the potential and possibilities well, shit how did this young twerp do it and it s not perfect yeah, it is precious at times, and, yes, he doesn t always mix tone that well, there are scenes that feel heightened when they could ve played straight topowerful effect, and blahblahblah but fuck if the flaws don t add to the whole i d be suspicious if it was perfect because life itself is a messy affair and that s what this book is about but what are you going to do leave it no you stick around and you find those people you love and you never ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever let go and if they re taken from you or leave you, you rail and rant against your god or your country or their country or a cold uncaring universe or nature or dumb luck and you scream and you cry and threaten suicide or murder and pull out your hair and punch cement walls and then then you quiet down and mend your knuckles and straighten your hair and put down the gun and stop guzzling the bourbon and you get your shit together and you move on but you re never the same. I read the first chapter and stopped I am pissed off I have rarely felt so manipulated as a reader in my life, and I think the manipulation isabout the way it is written than what it is written about, although that is, in itself, fairly manipulative If this is how Foer usually writes, I want no part of him or his work Still, if this was a short story and I reached the point where the Dad is about to talk to his son before the towers collapse, I would be excited by the cleverness of the moment, would look forward to the conversation, and be pleased in anticipation of the genuine anguish that must be coming But it s not a short story It s the first chapter in what is a pretty long book, and I imagine all manner of excruciating crapness is to come Couple that with a first person narrative in the voice of a precocious kid so precocious, in fact, that he sounds like a thirty something man trapped in a kid s body rather than a genuinely precocious kid I often suspect, when these impossibly precocious characters appear, that the author wants to write as a child but realizes he isn t good enough, so he makes them precocious so he can just write as themselves at their least disciplined and pretend it is a child and I want to tear my eyeballs out after only twenty some odd pages Even worse, I didn t know this was about the WTC attack until I got this to the cash register I just saw it on sale, knew it had good buzz, liked the cover and thought, What the hell I need to reexamine my impulse buying, apparently, because I would not have bought this book if I d known what it was about before I did I think, too, that if I keep reading this book it is going to be lucky to get one star, so it s probably best to leave it where it is for now on my to read shelf, buried under that copy of Shogun that s been there for a decade.