Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close - Jonathan Safran Foer

Foer's first novel, Everything Is Illuminated, was one of those books you see described as "ambitious," both in the way that it's written and the vast scope of the story. This, his second novel, is perhaps even more so. In the last one, Foers used two voices to tell the story; this one has three, not to mention photographs interspersed throughout the book and more fun with typography, including two and a half pages of numbers (typing words on a telephone) which I suppose you could try to translate but would take you a long time.

Nine-year-old Oskar Schell describes himself as: inventor, jewelry designer, jewelry fabricator, amateur entomologist, Francophile, vegan, origamist, pacifist, percussionist, amateur astronomer, computer consultant, amateur archeologist, and a collector of various things. He reminds me a bit of myself, in that the wheels in his head never stop turning. He's one of these kids that's filled with random interesting facts and goofy jokes, and isn't at all afraid of strangers. After he loses his father in the September 11 attacks, he discovers a mysterious key in an envelope, and goes on a mission to find the one lock (in 162 million in New York City) that the key fits.

Oskar reminded me a little of Christopher, the narrator of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. Oskar isn't autistic, but I get the feeling he's probably a high-AQ sort of kid, and the way he sees the world is sometimes similar to Christopher's. But this is a better (not to mention bigger) story, and Oskar is much more fun to follow.

Interspersed with Oskar's narratives are letters written by Oskar's grandmother and grandfather (to Oskar and Oskar's dad, respectively), which tell the story of the bombing of Dresden and how they met and their life together. There's even a chapter recounting a wonderful bedtime story that Oskar's dad tells about the Sixth Burrough of New York. But everything comes together obliquely, with tidbits of information from one chapter intersecting with something from another chapter. Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close is not the sort of book you can breeze through: Foer makes you work at it, but it's well worth the effort.

Fed to jonathan's brain | October 06, 2005 | Comments (2)


do you know what the numbers mean in extremely lound and incredibly close? In other words, could you turn the numbers into words? I have tried but have not gotten very far, and want to know.

Thanks if you can figure it out

Posted by: kelly at May 30, 2008 05:29 AM

I found this online: http://rodcorp.typepad.com/rodcorp/2005/03/how_we_work_jon.html#comment-18594615
If you scroll down to the comments some folks talk about it there. I don't actually own the book myself so I don't have a good way to go back and see what else is there...

Posted by: jonathan [TypeKey Profile Page] at May 30, 2008 04:10 PM

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