Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

Thoughts   Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer, Houghton Mifflin Company 2005 ISBN 0-618-32970-6, 354 pages

MOTIVATION for READING:   I have been wanting to read this for a long time.    The first attempt was a few years ago on a glorious day in early spring;  the weather did not fit the book so I had to abandon.   A second attempt was foiled for some other reason I do not recall but I would guess it was a question of my ability to participate fully.    I needed my book club to choose this so I would be committed to sitting quiet and reading, not allowing any interruptions.    I took it along on a flight from Boston to Omaha = perfect!   The date (weekend of Sept 11) was appropriate, too.

Book discussion is this coming Thursday, Sept 23, directly following mandatory “Bullying Prevention Training” at the High School.

WHAT’s it ABOUT:   A boy named Oskar who lost his father in the Sept 11 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center discovers a key in a vase on a high shelf in his Dad’s closet.    He sets out on a mission to find the corresponding lock.    He grieves, he questions his mother’s grieving process, he invents stuff in his head when he can’t sleep, he makes quirky friends along the way to find the lock that the key fits, and he wonders about love and life and loss.     A corresponding story line that explains the boy’s grandparents’ relationship – or attempts to – is woven through the narrative.     Also, I must add that we get to see the visuals and photos and pictures that correspond to what Oscar thinks about.    One the whole, an extremely creative work of art.

FIRST SENTENCE(s):   “What about a teakettle?  What if the spout opened and closed when the steam came out, so it would beome a mouth, and it could whistle pretty melodies, or do Shakespeare or just crack up with me?   I could invent a teakettle that reads in Dad’s voice, so I could fall asleep, or maybe a  set of kettles that sings the chorus of “Yellow Submarine,” which is a song by the Beatles, who I love, because entomology is one of my raisons d’être, which is a French expression that I know.”

WHAT I LIKED:   I loved the creativity.   I marvel at the creativity of Mr. Foer.

WHAT I did NOT like:    This is not a criticism – it is a notice:    know that this book will require your attention and imagination and involve your heart and mind combined and entangled.   It is involved.   That is all,  carry on.    Oh, and it’s lighter than you might expect but still weighs heavy.    Like earrings that look light and airy but are heavy in your hand when you pick them up and then tug at your earlobes.

More RANDOM thoughts:   On page 33 is a quote that startled me until I realized that I had also written it down the prior two times I had attempted this book.   But I still wonder if this is some great saying of old that I just can’t place:  “The end of suffering does not justify the suffering and so there is no end to suffering.” Obviously, I have never taken a philosophy course.

Symbolism but not disguised symbolism:   heavy boots.

I thought the morse code bracelet that Oskar made for his mother was amazingly brilliant.

I totally enjoyed the discussion and examples of how hard it is to write the word of a color in a pen ink not of that color!   page 63.

I could not figure out how old Oskar was!   I must have missed it early in the book.   I’m not good at guessing ages.

On page 42 is a reference to a museum that has a space on the wall where a stolen painting used to hang.   That museum is most likely to be the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston.   I recommend it.

On page 69, “It probably gets pretty lonely to be anyone.”

On page 47, “Sometimes you have to put your fears in order.”

On page 165, “Then, out of nowhere, a flock of birds flew by the window, extremely loud and incredibly close.”

For other odd thoughts I don’t want to forget but must warn about spoilers, click here.

Two things I took away from this book:   1)   Cherish your loved ones every day.   2)  Love is a highly active process.

RATING:   Five slices of pie.

Other REVIEWS:   Kim at Sophisticated Dorkiness, Nymeth at Things Mean a Lot, Raych at books I done read,  Fyrefly’s Book Blog Search

Link to 2012 scheduled movie Extremely Loud and Incredibly Loud.

Finally, a photo of my dog Oscar who got hit by a skunk the other day and is now referred to as “Stinky-Face”:


Copyright © 2010. Care’s Online Book Club. All rights reserved. This post was originally posted by Care from Care’s Online Book Club.  It should not be reproduced without express written permission.

46 thoughts on “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

  1. I delayed reading this for ages too, but wow, what a terrific way to tell this story. Oskar’s perspective is so fresh, and at times I had to read short passages aloud to whomever was near because his expression was just perfect. I like your “notice” and the earrings bit: nicely said!

    1. Oskar was endearing even as he was a bit prickly. Thanks for the compliment. When I saw how many comments I got abt those earrings, I was questioning it (I was out mowing the lawn and thinking abt this book – a good way to pass the time) but I think I will go with it. I wanted some way to convey that even though this book initially seems like it will be dark, it IS light and has humor and quirkiness and yet still the heaviness gets ya.

      1. Still thinking… I just thought of how odd and unexpected our experience with FOG was this summer because it was SUNNY while being frightening because we couldn’t see but 30 feet around us. (yep, like this better)

  2. “Like earrings that look light and airy but are heavy in your hand when you pick them up”

    What a brilliant way of explaining how this book is both light and heavy. I read it when it was quite new so I don´t remember the details, but I do know that I loved it,and I am glad you gave it a third chance.

    1. Dorte, this was actually in a goodreads category of ‘I know I would love this if I could just finish it!’ !!
      I am not so sure about Anna Karenina – another book I’ve started multiple times and never finished. But keep saying I want to.

    1. Jeanne, certainly an extremely BRIGHT kid. I don’t have a good grasp of the spectrum/definition of autistic but I wouldn’t be surprised if he had this label at school.

    1. Nancy, are you kidding?! He was THRILLED. Darn ol’ hunting dog. Took a snoot full and wondered why HE was in trouble was I was mad at him. I’m still trying to figure out how to clean out his nose.

    1. Kim, maybe I should have just labeled that ‘obvious symbolism’. IS IT even symbolism if so obvious? Here’s me needing that litcrit book/class again. 😀

  3. Poor doggy, and poor you until he becomes clean again. :p

    I haven’t read any 9/11 books, I don’t believe, because every time I try I start getting surprisingly upset. I don’t know why it affects me this way, I was pretty blase on the day itself. But if I ever do manage to read a 9/11 book, I’d like it to be this one. It sounds really good.

    1. Jenny, don’t ‘poor doggy’ Oscar! He thought it great fun. He collects scents for his hobby, you know. We were joking that he was probably ‘big-dog-on-campus’ at daycare yesterday, telling all the other golden retrievers and labs about his cool encounter.

      Per your 9/11 concern, most of the book really isn’t 9/11 heavy. Except for a few of Oskar’s questions and concerns and well, the obvious. But the bulk of it is Oskar’s search, his letters, his many thoughts, and the bit about his grandpa. Which references WWII. But it’s OK to get upset and maybe-someday this. 🙂
      I have quite a few 9/11 movies that I want to see but haven’t been able to. yet.

  4. Oh, I loved this book! I thought it was so clever and loved the quirkiness of Oskar. I totally agree with your earring comparison though. For such a seemingly silly book, I cried so much when Oskar yelled at his mom.

    I definitely need to get this one back from the person I lent it to for another read.

    1. Trisha – does this mean you LIKE this random post? 🙂 I am sorry if my comment to your series post was short and abrupt – I have some difficulties typing comments on my iPad. (sorry excuse) But I felt I didn’t convey a more sincere friendly attitude. ?

  5. I am desperate to read this, but I remember how much attention was required for Everything is Illuminated and I’m not sure if these months in Sweden are the right time to start this, but once I’m back, I WILL read this as soon as I can.

  6. I’ve been so afraid of this book for so long. (No sane reason why.) But the combination of Carl’s review of this book and the fact that I loved Foer’s writing style in his non-fiction book Eating Animals (which for some reason I wasn’t afraid of) combined to finally make me buy it. Your incredible review here, Care, has me really, really excited to pull it off the shelf!

    1. Oops – I have no idea what I meant to comment here (just noticed I replied with *blank* and so I will THANK you for your comment.
      I think it was to tell you that I want to read his other book now.

  7. I have been interested in this author for a long time, but never managed to get around to reading him. I can see that I must! Thank you for the – as ever! – gentle and encouraging push, Care.

    1. Vasilly – you and I do share a lot of favorites, don’t we? I just saw you Twittering abt Zetta Elliot and time travel. I really want to read that one.

    1. Me, too. I will someday get to the Illuminated book but I need a break and will dip into something different. Just started my first Murakami.

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