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Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close - Book Review

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by Shannon Meyerkort (subscribe)
Writer. Storyteller. Mother. Find out more at shannonmeyerkort.com/ or join me at fundraisingmums.com.au
Published April 14th 2013
Is this the strangest book you will ever read?
From the first few lines of Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close you are dropped, Wonderland style, down a rabbit hole of extremely busy and not always sense-making thoughts.

The cover image of Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close


Welcome to the post 9/11 mind of nine year old Oskar Schell.

Inside, it's a bit like a Dr Suess book for grown-ups, with pages of unbroken text interspersed with black and white photos of hands, door knobs, fronts of houses and the iconic Falling Man.

Such is the unpredictability of this book, I would not have blinked had there been a pop-up of a giant mouse. Or a plane crashing into a building.

The Falling Man is referenced throughout the novel


This book does not shy away from unpleasant images and imagery. From the first page where Oskar ruminates on teaching his anus to speak, to musings on the many ways people died when the towers came down, the novel will grab you, and pry your eyeballs open, Clockwork Orange style.

The chapters move between nine year old Oskar, his grandmother and his grandfather who writes letters to Oskar's absent father, and who reflect on their own personal trauma with the bombing of Dresden.

It feels like you are a reading a trip - of the acidic variety – as you are subjected to changes in font, changes in colour, the size of the text, the size of the spaces, removal of space altogether, one sentence to a page or multiple lines typed over the top of each other.

This book must have been a typesetter's nightmare. I hope they got a rather large Christmas bonus.

One of the many unusual textual devices


Oskar is looking for a lock. One of 62 million locks in New York.
He is also looking for a person named Black, one of 472 in New York. Oskar believes if he finds the Black and finds the key, he may find his father, who was thought to have died on September 11 when the towers came down, but now he is not so convinced.

Oskar Schell is an incredible character: bright, dull, book-smart, street-dumb, persistent, curious and so incredibly full-on, you sometimes need to take a nap to recover from reading a chapter. He asks the type of questions that many of us wish we could, but are too polite or too scared.

I didn't mark the text up, you can thank the author for that


There are twists in this tale, except they're not. They are clearly sign-posted to an attentive reader, but it's so easy to be dazzled and distracted by the noise, they can be easy to miss. As a reader you also want to travel this journey at Oskar's pace. If he isn't figuring the connections out, then you don't really want to either.

It is an exhausting read, and one that repeats on you like yesterday's burrito. But it is exhilarating and well worth the ride. The concluding pages, with a heart-rending reversal of one of the 21st century's most poignant images will leave you breathless and two words will bounce around your head for days… 'what if?'.

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close: A Novel is written by Jonathan Safran Foer and was published in 2005.
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Why? an extraordinary if exhausting journey through the mind of an exceptional child
Your Comment
This is quite possibly the best book written about an autistic boy. Much more enjoyable and accessible than 'The Curious Incident of The Dog in The Night-time'.
by The Fantod Deck (score: 0|2) 1879 days ago
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