Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Review: Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

Hey so it's been a while since I rapped at y'all.

I've been reading and reading and most of it was not part of my original plan for 2011.  For example, I didn't expect to fall down a science fiction rabbit hole and read four books in the Ender's Game Series.  I didn't expect that George R. R. Martin would finally publish A Dance with Dragons.  And I wasn't expecting to compulsively read Before I Go To Sleep (not worth it) or Life of Pi (worth it for the end).

But one book that had been sitting on my Ready Whenever You Are list for a long time was Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer.

So on a whim, I picked it up and started reading.  And it was hard to put it down for a long time.  This is a 9/11 book and it is also not at all a 9/11 book.  See, I had this aversion to reading about 9/11.  Not that I had any real trauma from the event, but for some reason I am Not Interested in novels related to current events.  Maybe I think it's Too Soon and without the distance of time, the understanding of that event is too distorted by the proximity to reality.  But that's my beef.

The main character is  boy named Oskar.  The rest of the primary characters are his family members.  Oskar's father was killed in the 9/11 attacks and Oskar has been trying to cope with that loss.

Listen, I could go on and on about the plot, but I really just want to talk about how this book made me feel.  You can get plot elsewhere and it'll probably be better summarized than what I could give you.

So yeah, I cried.

I don't typically get weepy when I read.  I'm a goddamn sissy in front of the TV.  I can be walking through the room while the wife is watching Oprah and I'll start tearing up on my way to the fridge.  That Story Corps thing they do on NPR routinely leaves me a dribbling mess.  And let's not even talk about the last season of Six Feet Under, which made me feel like I'd been beaten within an inch of my emotional life every single week.  But for some reason, books rarely get me there.

But Oskar is just a kid.  And he's got heavy boots.  Really heavy boots.  And when you take a moment to just think about that weight he's been carrying around.  When you stop to consider the secret he's keeping...  Just devastating.  And for me it wasn't just some tears in my eyes, but full-on heaving, unable to speak sadness.

It's not a 9/11 book.  Not really.  Much like Middlesex wasn't really about hermaphrodites.  This book is perfect and it's probably the best thing I've read all year.  Maybe I should have read it sooner.  But I think books come to us when we're ready for them.  I've only been a parent for two years, but I don't think this book would have hit me so hard before I'd had kids.

Rating: 10/10

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