Saturday, 25 February 2012

Book #20 Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer

Extremely Loud And Incredibly Close

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close has recently been released as a film to fairly damning reviews with respected reviewer Mark Kermode referring to it as 'Extremely Long and Incredibly Crass', I didn't really have plans to see it for this reason, but it was on offer so I picked the book up. The usual book first policy.

Oskar Schell, our nine year old protagonist has a narrative voice fairly similar to that used in The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night Time by Mark Haddon. Oskar is incredibly intelligent but not socially skilled, with interactions that hint at Asperger's Syndrome.

Oskar is a troubled child whose father to whom he was incredibly close died in the 9/11 terrorist attacks, with Oskar still experiencing significant trauma in relation to that death two years later.

The second narrative concerns Thomas Schell Snr, Oskar's absent, and mute, grandfather who following the trauma of surviving being bombed in the Dresden attack of World War 2, slowly lost the ability to speak. His narrative mainly consists of letters to Oscar's father, letters he never mailed, and the short sentences he uses to communicate with others by writing them down on a pad.

Oskar discovers a key inside a vase, with a note saying Black written in red ink and from there sets out on a mission to find out what his fathers last message to him was.

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close is an enormously moving novel, I spent most of it feeling that feeling you get just before you cry, yet not quite crying. It is so desperately sad in so many ways, engaging, compelling, well written I think it is a beautiful, beautiful piece of literature, about trauma, grief  and loss, but about life too. 

Yet, as I read the novel, and the different ways it is laid out from pictures of locks, to buildings to backs of heads, to pages which are blank or have one sentence, it seemed to me that the novel was inherently unsuited to film and shouldn't have been touched. Because I enjoyed this book so much, I am going to avoid the film at all costs, mainly because it's critical reception has been that bad. I do not want to see a book which touched me deeply and is probably residing as my number one book of 2012 so far be butchered or destroyed.

Don't let the bad reputation around this film put you off, do read this book, a portrait of what it must be to be a 9/11 relative so accurately believable that I literally ached. 10/10

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