I just finished reading Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer, and it's my new favorite book. I don't even know what to say- any attempt would just be "a raid on the inarticulate/ With shabby equipment always deteriorating" (gracias Eliot).
I guess I'll try. Bare with me.
Things I loved about this book: the characters' honesty/openness/intimacy with the reader, Oskar's idiosyncrisies, his frankness, the grandparents' narrative, the fact that Oskar has so many questions about so many ridiculous things, his inventions, Oskar's business card, the fact that he writes to Stephen Hawking, the fact that Stephen Hawking writes back, the fact that so much of this book is about words and what they can do, or can't do, what they fill and can't fill, Mr. Black in 6A and Oskar's turning on his hearing aids for him, the sixth borough, the fact that it almost all takes place in NY and I know the places he talks about, that Oskar asks the pretty women he meets if he can kiss them, the expressions "heavy boots" and "Jose," the fact that he asks William Black if he forgives him for not picking up the phone, everything.
I think what I love about Oskar, and probably what other people love about him too, is that his voice is the adult child voice. Honestly, he's too smart for a real 8 or 9 year old, but that doesn't matter. He gives voice to the child in the adult and allows anyone reading it to be as simple and endearing and curious and confused and pained as Oskar- without any adult pretention or need to be grown-up. I mean he might be a real 8 year old too, but I definitely think he does the child-in-the-adult thing.
I don't know what to make of the fact that Thomas Schell is virtually a complete void, but also the center/addressee of each narrative. It's sort of like As I Lay Dying in some way (and even though I like that book a LOT, this one is way better). At least in As I Lay Dying, though, the dead body is actually IN the coffin- and we hear from her- even if only once. I guess taking Thomas out- or having his role in the narrators' lives essentially be empty- is because words are more important for the speakers than for who or what they're speaking about? I dunno, his parents are always talking to him- Oskar is always wondering about him and looking for him; we discover these characters in their speaking to/about Thomas. He's sort of the hole they dump their words into (and I guess this is literal, too, at the end) in their trying to figure things out, to put things in place.
I like that Foer juxtaposes the suffering caused by the bombing of Dresden and the 9/11 attacks. I wonder if the generation that went through WWII ever really recovered from it- or if anyone really ever recovers from any war, or attack. They wound so so deeply. I feel like the 20th century- and I guess even the 21st beginning with the bang of 9/11 - is just scar after scar after scar after scar, and each new wound makes the world look at all the other scars it has, which even though "healed" are still pink and ugly and gave the world extra skin-- like a sick joke of a souvenir gifted by history. Even our generation- even if we were young when it happened- we've got a pink blob of extra skin from 9/11 and we'll always see it when we take a shower or go to the beach- long after they build the freedom tower and set up memorial museums. I'm not really sure what to make of all that.
Obviously there's a lot more to say, and probably deeper things, but these are my initial impressions and thoughts.