Thursday, January 12, 2012

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer, Houghton, Mifflin Harcourt, April 2005

...I am really looking forward to this movie, I bet it is a wildy better than the book!

This is the story of a young boy who has lost his father in the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center. Oskar Schnell is depressed and deeply traumatized by his loss. After his father’s death, Oskar finds a key that his father had hidden in a vase. He sets off on a mission to find out what the key opens. His travels take him to all five of the NYC boroughs and his quest eventually helps him deal with the loss of his father. A backdrop to the story is his paternal grandparents experience in the firebombing of Dresden during WWII. The grandparents’ story is interspersed through Oskar’s adventures.

I don’t know when I’ve read a book that I’ve had such mixed feeling about. Oskar’s story is very well told. I was moved near to tears at how real his pain and loss is expressed in this story. His voice rings strong, true and heartfelt. The dialogue was perfect for a precocious nine year old, at times witty, at times clever, at times deeply sad. His expression for his grief – “I felt heavy in my boots” – was for me just perfect. His flights of fantasy in creating “Inventions” seem spot on for a bright young boy. It would have been easy to make Oskar’s story descend into cheap sentimentalism but the author doesn’t, he tells it in a way that is sensitive and realistic.

Now for the parts of the book that almost caused me to toss the book across the room. The grandparents story was told in an almost incomprehensible manner – was there no editor involved in this process? The grandparents have lives that have been greatly diminished by their experience in Dresden. Their marriage was a compromise for both of them. Their methods of dealing with their losses and trying to build a life are strange. Even though I found their story unusual I really objected to the way the author told it. Some of the pages contained a single word, some pages were filled with words that did not make sense and some pages were unreadable because the typeset was intentionally blurred. I’ve never read a graphic novel but if this is an example of one you can keep them. I think what I enjoy about reading is the picture the author creates in my mind by using words and the richness and depth of the experience that words bring to the story. None of this was present for me in the grandparents’ story.

I rarely think this but I am really looking forward to this movie,I am sure it will be well edited and  I bet it is a wildly better than the book!

I read a copy of this book borrowed from The Free Library of Philadelphia.

1 comment:

Zibilee said...

Sandy also didn't like the grandparent's story, and it almost ruined the book for her. I am not sure how I felt about it, as I read this such a long time ago, and listened to an audio version, so things might have been a little different for me. Great and very candid thoughts today. I appreciated them!