Even after a year, I still had an extremely difficult time doing certain things, like taking showers, for some reason, and getting into elevators, obviously. There was a lot of stuff that made me panicky, like suspension bridges, germs, airplanes, fireworks, Arab people on the subway (even though I'm not racist), Arab people in restaurants and coffee shops and other public places, scaffolding, sewers and subway grates, bags without owners, shoes, people with mustaches, smoke, knots, tall buildings, turbans.
Jonathan Safran Foer became a bestselling author with his 2002 debut novel Everything is Illuminated. His second novel, Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, is quite unconventional and postmodern. According to Wikipedia, it is an example of visual writing, a genre that questions the boundaries of the ordinary novel as, simply, 'text on a page'. The novel includes numerous photographs and images that are linked with the story, colourful pages with words that appear hand-written and even text that is cramped together so tightly that it becomes totally illegible:
Even without the quirky typographical gimmicks (I personally enjoy them), the novel is absolutely incredible. The main character, 9-year-old Oskar, is the most likeable, heart-breaking child protagonist that I've come across in a long, long time. Precocious and amazingly thoughtful, Oskar is an amateur inventor, entomologist, Francophile, vegan, pacifist and a fan of Stephen Hawking and Ringo, among others.
On September 11, 2001, Oskar comes home from school to hear his father, trapped in the burning World Trade Centre, leaving messages on the phone for his family. After his father's death, Oskar finds a mysterious key in his father's room and undertakes the mission to find out which of New York's 162 million locks it unlocks. His quest to find the lock is intertwined with the memories of the oldest members of his family: their experiences in Dresden during the Second World War and their immigration to the US. The past and present tragedies of the family are linked together.
This is a brilliant book, mainly because Oskar has such a wild imagination. He is a great narrator and observer. The sections about his Jewish grandparents' past and their marriage seem out-of-place in the beginning of the novel and at times it was difficult to keep up with who was telling the story and how they were related. Still, this novel is definitely worth reading, because it somehow manages to be hilarious and incredibly sad at the same time.
Jonathan Safran Foer: Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close. Penguin Books. 2005.
ReviewsOfBooks.com: Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close
Wikipedia: Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close
Wikipedia: Jonathan Safran Foer