Friday, May 08, 2009

Mini Review of “Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close” by Jonathan Safran Foer

My good friend, Andy Peix, recently said to me, “There is this book I would like you to read. Please add to your list ‘Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close.’ Once you have read it, let me know what you think.”

What I think, Andy, is that Jonathan Safran Foer is an incredibly gifted young writer, and I am thrilled that you have made me aware of him. He has woven together a tale that allows the reader to journey along with young Oskar Schell in processing the death of his father at the site of the World Trade Center on 9/11. Foer employs a picaresque style in following through the five New York boroughs (and an imaginary sixth borough) the peregrinations of 9-year-old Oskar as he seeks out and interrogates every person in the New York City phone book whose last name is “Black”!

The result is a heart-rending, deeply insightful exploration of the landscape of grief, and a search for where and how to deploy the keys to emotional survival. Foer ties together the commonalities of suffering that are shared among the survivors of the firebombing of Dresden, the dropping of the A-bomb in Japan and the bombing of the Twin Towers. Using photography, other graphic images and word pictures, the author presents an often jarring view of New York and of the Ground Zero minds of the characters who strive to make sense of the post-9/11 world. The final pages, fashioned as a flip book to simulate a crude motion picture, are particularly poignant. Foer makes it clear that, despite our impossible dreams of somehow undoing the tragedy and reversing the flow of history, it is not possible to rebuild the Twin Towers. Perhaps, however, it is possible, to rebuild the lives that were forever changed on that day of airplanes as bombs and telephone calls from Ground Zero that served as emotional bombshells.

Foer is a writer whose work I will continue to follow with great interest. I recommend “Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close.”

Thanks, Andy.


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