Book Review of Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
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Helpful Score: 1


Hmm. Typically when I finish reading a book I have a very strong opinion one way or the other, but after finishing "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close" I was left feeling lonely and confused. Confused because I wanted to love the book but didn't. Lonely because, well, I was traveling for work and was cooped up in a tiny hotel room overlooking a vacant parking garage on the outskirts of Seattle, Washington. And it was raining. Go figure.

Anyway, this is the first Foer novel that I've read, mainly because a very good friend of mine, who happens to be an author, attempted reading "Everything Is Illuminated" years ago and despised it. He felt that Foer's style was pretentious and gimmicky. This feedback stuck with me over the years, but after enjoying the film version of "Everything is Illuminated" I decided to go against my better judgement and give this one a try. I mean, the story's about a young kid pining away over his father's death which occurred during the 9/11 attacks....How could I not like it??

And that my friends, is what I'm currently struggling with. Have I no soul? How could a story that's so deeply rooted in one of America's greatest tragedies not resonate within me? The only logical answer that I can come up with is Foer's style of writing, specifically his decision to alternate narrators between chapters, each having their very own different style of writing. Now, I completely understand why Foer did this, but damn if it didn't grow tedious after a while.

Another huge issue for me was Oskar Schell's character. Plain and simple, the vast majority of nine year old kids do not talk or act like Oskar does throughout this book. Nine year old kids do not spend months venturing alone or with complete strangers around New York City without something bad eventually happening to them. Nine year old kids pick their noses, play video games, and speak in grammatically incorrect English. Oddly enough, reading this book reminded me of "Dawson's Creek"...you know, that show that we were all hooked on in the late 90's. It wasn't the type of show that I typically watched, but damn I grew fixated on the trials and tribulations of the Dawson/Joey/Pacey love triangle. How could you let her go Dawson? How?

Anyway, my point is, those high school kids from Capeside, Massachusetts did not talk like high schoolers, but rather like pretentious English professors. Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that the show's content needed to be dumbed down for its viewers, but with each seventeen syllable word that Dawson blurted out the show began loosing some of it's plausibility...and that's exactly the problem with Foer's portrayal of Oskar. Kids like Oskar are not normal, and thus difficult to relate to.

With all of that said, all is not lost with "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close." I found the excerpts discussing the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks and the profound impacts on Oskar's life incredibly moving. Damn those answering machine messages were haunting weren't they? The world hasn't been the same since that dark day and all of us can relate to the disaster in one way or another. On a personal level, I almost lost my father in a car crash a few years ago and I can completely relate to Oskar's struggle in coping with the loss of his father.

When all was said and done though I was left wanting more. I really wanted to love this book. I wanted to care about Oskar and the outcome of his journey. I wanted to believe that nine year old kids like Oskar really exist...nine year olds that talk like young adults and have the ability to adeptly travel unaided through the most populous city in the United States. Sadly, while I may have been able to suspend my disbelief in order to thoroughly enjoy "Dawson's Creek", I wasn't able to do so for this novel.