This book reminded me a lot of Pigeon English, a good book which I would’ve probably blogged about had the ending not totally killed my buzz. A young narrator, Oskar Schell, tells us his story in that kind of annoying/kind of endearing chatty, precocious kid speak, with a smattering of his own personal quirks and mannerisms which eventually grow on you. Extremely Loud And Incredibly Close also reminded me a lot of a Margaret Atwood dystopia. Given that this story is all about a nine year old boy whose father has just been killed during the 9/11 terrorist attacks, a dystopia is probably a pretty accurate description of what this young narrator might be going through.
I don’t usually go for a book that I think is going to be overtly depressing (who does?!). In fact, I actually skipped out on reading this one at uni because quite frankly it sounded like a massive downer and I was probably more interested in learning the ukelele/ perfecting my beer pong throw/cultivating a house plant/ [insert-random-activity -for-people-with-too-much-time-on-their-hands]. But now I’m writing this blog, I’ve started doing a little round up of all the books I decided to skip reading over the course of my degree (…more than expected, I’m obviously not the geek I thought I was) and it seems like I missed out on a good one.
Oskar’s world is turned upside down after his father attends a meeting at the World Trade Centre on September 11th, and the tragic events of history unfold. After the funeral Oskar finds a key amongst his father’s belongings, in an envelope marked ‘Black’. Along with facing the obvious struggle of losing a parent, Oskar also begins an obsessive search across New York to uncover the secret of the key. His search leads him to encounter a number of characters, strangers and experiences, which temporarily alleviate Oskar’s lack of closure on his father’s death, and gives him some purpose to keep on at life. Oskar also has in his possession, an answering machine containing several voice messages from is father at the time of the terrorist attacks, which he keeps hidden from his widowed mother along with the fact that he is cutting school classes in order to pursue answers to the key. The sub-plot is told through the eyes of Oskar’s grandparents, and the parents of Oskar’s late father, who have been separated for over forty years. The narratives leap around and intertwine chaotically throughout the novel, which is difficult to follow at first, but proves to be completely fitting and appropriate when you look at the context of the story.
I was having a sken at the Wikipedia page (don’t look, there’s spoilers), and something that I found really interesting was this observation that after 9/11 there was a desire to write about the events, but language seemed to fail at describing the impact of these infamous terrorist attacks. Writers found the tools of their trade completely useless. With this in mind, looking at 9/11 through the lens of of childhood and using the voice of a socially difficult nine year old, Foer manages to reflect the vulnerability and incapacity that all humans experience when faced with something so awful that there literally are no words. Bleak, heart-warming, sad, funny, tragic and worth a read.