Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close is one of the five books I would want with me on a desert island (the others being The Little Prince, any anthology of Jeeves and Wooster stories by P.G. Wodehouse, the Bible, and the fat poetry anthology that lives by my bed). I first read the novel during the worst semester of my college years; my life was so stressful that I read five or ten pages at a time, barely able to take the grief and pain in Jonathan Safran Foer’s writing. But it was so good that I could not give it up, even when it sent me to bed shaking.
The story, for those who don’t know, is about Oskar Schell, a precocious, possibly autistic nine-year-old boy whose father dies in the WTC on 9/11. His father had played scavenger hunt games with him, so when Oskar finds a key hidden in an envelope labeled “Black” with his father’s things, he takes it as a clue that the last and most important hunt is still waiting for him.
He takes off on a solo mission to ask everyone in New York with the last name “Black” if they know anything about the key. Interlaced with Oskar’s journey to find his father in the boroughs of New York is the story of his grandfather, a man who’s lost both his family and the ability to speak, and his grandmother, the sister of her husband’s true love.
Jonathan Safran Foer doesn’t flinch in the face of emotion, which I find wonderful in the Age of Irony, and he also does some typographical things that feel emotionally powerful, rather than gimmicky. So you can imagine the curdled blend of hope and preemptive disappointment I carried with me into the theater to see the movie adaptation. Continue reading