Synopses & Reviews
Oskar Schell is an inventor, Francophile, tambourine player, Shakespearean actor, jeweler, pacifist. He is nine years old. And he is on an urgent, secret search through the five boroughs of New York to find the lock that fits a mysterious key belonging to his father, who died in the attacks on the World Trade Center.
An inspired creation, Oskar is endearing, exasperating and unforgettable. His search for the lock careens from Central Park to Coney Island to the Bronx and beyond. But it also travels into history, to Dresden and Hiroshima, where horrific bombings once shattered other lives. Along the way, Oskar encounters a motley assortment of humanity a 103-year-old war reporter, a tour guide who never leaves the Empire State Building, lovers enraptured or scorned all survivors in their own ways.
Ultimately, Oskar ends his journey where it began, at his father's grave. But now he is accompanied by the silent stranger who has been renting the spare room of his grandmother's apartment. They are there to dig up his father's empty coffin.
Rarely does a writer as young as Jonathan Foer display such virtuosity and wisdom. "His prose is clever, challenging, willfully constructed to make you read it again and again," said Marie Arana, in the Washington Post Book World, of Everything Is Illuminated. Once again Foer turns his capacious talent and vision to devastating events and finds solice in that most human quality, imagination. Extemely Loud and Incredibly Close boldly approaches history and tragedy with humor, tenderness and awe.
"Oskar Schell, hero of this brilliant follow-up to Foer's bestselling Everything Is Illuminated, is a nine-year-old amateur inventor, jewelry designer, astrophysicist, tambourine player and pacifist. Like the second-language narrator of Illuminated, Oskar turns his navely precocious vocabulary to the understanding of historical tragedy, as he searches New York for the lock that matches a mysterious key left by his father when he was killed in the September 11 attacks, a quest that intertwines with the story of his grandparents, whose lives were blighted by the firebombing of Dresden. Foer embellishes the narrative with evocative graphics, including photographs, colored highlights and passages of illegibly overwritten text, and takes his unique flair for the poetry of miscommunication to occasionally gimmicky lengths, like a two-page soliloquy written entirely in numerical code. Although not quite the comic tour de force that Illuminated was, the novel is replete with hilarious and appalling passages, as when, during show-and-tell, Oskar plays a harrowing recording by a Hiroshima survivor and then launches into a Poindexterish disquisition on the bomb's 'charring effect.' It's more of a challenge to play in the same way with the very recent collapse of the towers, but Foer gambles on the power of his protagonist's voice to transform the cataclysm from raw current event to a tragedy at once visceral and mythical. Unafraid to show his traumatized characters' constant groping for emotional catharsis, Foer demonstrates once again that he is one of the few contemporary writers willing to risk sentimentalism in order to address great questions of truth, love and beauty. Agent, Nicole Aragi. 11-city author tour; foreign rights sold in 12 countries. (Apr. 4)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"[B]eautifully designed second from the gifted young author....[A] riveting narrative....[A] brilliant fiction works thrilling variations on, and consolations for, its plangent message: that 'in the end, everyone loses everyone.' Yes, but look what Foer has found." Kirkus Reviews
"[Oskar's] first-person narration of his journey is arrestingly beautiful, and readers won't soon forget him....[W]hen the stories finally come together, the result is an emotionally devastating climax." Booklist
"Perhaps Foer's book is the opening trickle in a flood of World Trade Center novels to come. Most will undoubtedly be worse than this one because few writers of any age can wield a pen with Foer's intensity, yet few will be so extremely manipulative and incredibly cloying." Chicago Tribune
"Even if a few of [Foer's] gambits fall flat, it's hard to fault a 28-year-old novelist for such an intense hunger to connect. Especially when he's offering such a treasure...all of which bring home a little more of the specific human pain of 9/11. (Grade: B+)" Entertainment Weekly
"Foer's novel is an adventure in reading, packed with unique elements that illustrate the story....Though far from perfect, this book is worth its cover price as admission to the show." The Oregonian (Portland, OR)
"Although [the Dresden] story is not quite as evocative as Oskar's, it does carry forward and connect firmly to the rest of the novel. The two stories finally intersect in a powerful conclusion that will make even the most jaded hearts fall." School Library Journal
"The general impression one gets here is of a young writer who wants desperately to have something important to say....What Foer needs is more discipline in establishing narrative tone, and a surer sense of which of his technical gimmicks has any purpose." Seattle Times
"Jonathan Safran Foer's new novel is the mirror image of its young protagonist. The book is energetic, inventive, and ambitious, while also, at times, indulgent, contrived, and crushingly desperate for attention." Boston Globe
"Extremely Loud suffers a bit from its tendency toward the grotesque....Fortunately, the best sections of the novel are the most plentiful: Oskar's unconscious comedy and his poignant search for information about the man who spun bedtime stories out of fantasy and science." The Washington Post
"While it contains moments of shattering emotion and stunning virtuosity that attest to Mr. Foer's myriad gifts as a writer, the novel as a whole feels simultaneously contrived and improvisatory, schematic and haphazard." Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times Book Review
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
has been one of the most discussed, acclaimed, and debated novels in recent memory. And with good reason—as the Atlanta Journal-Constitution
noted, "Jonathan Safran Foer has done something both masterful and absolutely necessary: he has written the first great novel about September 11." Foer confronts a subject few writers have dared approach, and what he discovers is solace in that most human quality, imagination.
Nine-year-old Oskar Schell is on a mission to find the lock that matches a mysterious key belonging to his father, who died in the World Trade Center on 9/11. An inspired innocent, Oskar is alternately endearing, exasperating, and hilarious as he careens from Central Park to Coney Island to Harlem on his search. As he roams the five boroughs, Oskar encounters a motley assortment of people who are all survivors in their own way. His journey concludes in an emotional climax of truth, beauty, and heartbreak.
In Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, Foer once again demonstrates his ability to evoke and unravel the most personal and complex matters of the heart.
About the Author
Jonathan Safran Foer is the author of the bestseller Everything is Illuminated, named Book of the Year by the Los Angeles Times and the winner of numerous awards, including the Guardian First Book Prize, the National Jewish Book Award, and the New York Public Library Young Lions Prize. Foer was one of Rolling Stone's "People of the Year" and Esquire's "Best and Brightest." Foreign rights to his new novel have already been sold in ten countries. The film of Everything is Illuminated, directed by Liev Schreiber and starring Elijah Wood, will be released in August 2005. Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close has been optioned for film by Scott Rudin Productions in conjunction with Warner Brothers and Paramount Pictures. Foer lives in Brooklyn, New York.