Thursday, March 8, 2007

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close


That's what I'm reading right now.

I have to thank Missie for foisting it on me. I went by the Reader's Loft one afternoon last semester, before it even got that cold, in a funky low mood, wandered the new store, pet the cats, and wondered what I should read. Missie suggested Foer's novel.

"Ick," I said. I didn't like Everything is Illuminated. I'd read a few reviews of Extremely Loud and was already thinking I'd give the new novel a wide berth. Too much trouble. All that postmodern posturing, semi blank pages, pictures, weird/selfconscious/pretentious moves by novelists (male) decades younger than me. Savvy little animals in tight black pants trolling cocktail parties in Nueva York.

"I loved it," Missie said. "This is the one that'll convince you. It's going to blow you away."

Or something like that. God, I can't even remember the name of that guy in the poem who everyone wants to be, the one who goes home and puts a bullet in his brain. Richard Corey, yeah, that's the guy--thanks Student X. Your autism must make your data collection work better than mine. Or is it your age?

Back to what I was saying--

I ignored the book, which I bought more out of a sense of guilt than anything else (Missie and I had had a strange moment at a writing group meeting a few weeks before this encounter, and I was still feeling rather tentative around her, apologetic. As if I needed to buy the book she'd recommended in order to smooth her metaphorical feathers. Missie, if you're reading this, here's an insight into my turgid little mind), for weeks that quickly turned into months. Finally, after finishing that Ruth Rendell number I bought in the library bag sale, I was forced to turn to Foer.

And, by gum, I'm loving the novel. The narrator's a precocious nine year old, Oscar, with a bevy of mental challenges--OCD, mostly--no doubt brought on by his father's death in the 9/11 tragedy. He finds a vase in his father's closet, and inside the vase he finds an envelope with a key inside. On the envelope is written BLACK in a red pen. Oscar decides to find out what lock, in the vast area of New York City and its 5 boroughs, fits the key. The kid is funny, tragic, insightful, naive, driven--everything I want in a narrator.

The only drawback, and this I remember as a pernicious frustration from Everything is Illuminated, is that Foer doesn't like to create a new paragraph for each new speaker. He throws all the dialogue together in a single paragraph without tags--

"Did you throw out the trash?" "What trash?" "The trash I'm looking at right now, you loser." "Don't call me a loser." "I will if you are one." "Am not." "Are too." "Not." "Too." "This is ridiculous." "I know you are but what am I?"

--so that conversations hit my eye in a barely differentiated lingual wall. That's probably Foer's (pathetic) intention as an author.

I like my dialogue spaced out, like my Sunday afternoons, dude.

1 comment:

mcewen said...

I found it a difficult style initially, but if you persist it begins to flow.
Best wishes