Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Foer

October 1, 2009
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Tragedy isn't something the average nine year old usually has to worry about, however Oskar Schell is definitely not your average nine year old boy. Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close is a breathtaking novel that surrounds a young boy's quest to find answers about his father. Although the plot revolves around the journey, the author - Jonathan Foer, integrates a stream of consciousness technique along with a very unique writing style that propels the book into its own genre.

Jonathan Foer is a brilliant American author who is also known for his prior work Everything Is Illuminated. In 2000, He was awarded the Zoetrope: All-Story Fiction Prize and in 2007 he was in Granta's Best of Young American Novelists at the age of 32. His style in one word: random. Random isn't necessarily a bad thing, he uses pictures, individual pages with only one phrase on them, modified, crossed out, underlined, and circled words, italics, prose, poetry, you name it and it's pretty much in there. His diction remains pretty simple considering he is speaking through a nine year old boy, however Foer does place a few high level words to show that Oskar is more intelligent than the average kid. I could easily see a split decision on this book. Some critics may not appreciate the unique style because they believe it detracts from the story, however I thought that the unconventional writing style is perfected in this masterpiece, every page you turn is something new and interesting. Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close has one whole chapter of Oskar's dad's letter to his son. The chapter is edited in red pen with several words circled. This is because Oskar tended to look through things his dad wrote for clues on how he died. Even though, at the time, it wasn't clear why some of the words were circled, you can see that the author was trying to physically get you into the mind of the young boy. Basically, what was in the novel is exactly what Oskar was looking at. The most predominant technique that Foer exercises is the stream of consciousness style. I've never been big fan of the style, it usually loads me with information that is seemingly useless and unimportant. In this novel, however, Foer persuaded me to change my outlook on stream of consciousness. He showed me that when used effectively anybody can learn to enjoy this technique. Oskar walks into a pen shop and begins to tell the manager that she is "incredibly beautiful," even though he later states that "she was fat" and it would be an "especially nice complement" that would "make her like [him] again" (Foer 44). The book is heavily based around Oskar's character development, and this example shows that Oskar is a bit immature and selfish near the beginning of the novel. The author cleverly injects thoughts onto the pages of this novel that shows character development through the mind of the character that is changing. Foer's style makes his voice jump straight out of the book, it is creative, and something totally new and refreshing.

The novel's plot is driven by the some-what trivial quest of Oskar Schell, who is looking for a place for a newly discovered key in a vase once owned by his late father. I describe the quest as trivial because I don't think that the plot is the reason this book is good. At times it would bother me how the people of New York were so nice to Oskar when Oskar would probably be an annoyance if he came up to me. I found one incident with the cab driver particularly amusing. The cab fare was $76.50 on the meter and Oskar begins to ask the cab driver if he is "an optimist or a pessimist" because Oskar only has "seven dollars and sixty-eight cents" the cab driver puts "his head down on the steering wheel" (Foer 147). and tells Oskar to keep his money. This is one incident that describes what I mentioned above about how people just let the kid get by without even being upset. Oskar's interaction with different people is a key part of the novel. He has to talk to a lot of people before he finds out the final answer about his dad's key. At that age I would be scared to leave my house, it tells you what kind of person Oskar is and what he will be like when he grows up. Another aspect the quote represents to me specifically is Foer's ability to incorporate humor. Oskar is an extremely funny narrator that reminds me of my little cousin who is able to make me laugh constantly. By the end of the novel we find out that Oskar's quest was completely useless because the key ends up not being his father's in the first place. The book's plot leaves me considerably disappointed but not surprised.

So when it comes down to it... was the book worth reading? I would definitely say yes. I've read an abundance of books in English classes throughout my twelve years of schooling and this has to be one of the better ones. Previously, the novel As I Lay Dying gave me a bad interpretation of what stream of consciousness had to offer. I found that having an interesting narrator proved truly important to the stream of consciousness technique. Even though I enjoyed Foer's application of humor, sometimes the book became way to random for my liking. From the first pages of the novel you can tell that you are going to be incredibly confused. The novel's first words are "What about a teakettle? What if the spout opened and closed when the steam came out, so it would become a mouth, and it could whistle pretty melodies, or do Shakespeare" (Foer 1). For a significant portion of the novel Oskar rambles. I know what the author is trying to do, but it makes the book arduous to read and follow at times. Bottom line: I would recommend this book to people who I think would appreciate it(people with my sense of humor/personality).





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