Excerpt of Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer
(Page 6 of 8)
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I spread the map out on the dining room
table, and I held down the
corners with cans of V8. The dots from
where I'd found things looked like the
stars in the universe. I connected them,
like an astrologer, and if you
squinted your eyes like a Chinese
person, it kind of looked like the
word "fragile." Fragile. What was
fragile? Was Central Park fragile? Was
nature fragile? Were the things I found
fragile? A thumbtack isn't fragile. Is a
bent spoon fragile? I erased, and
connected the dots in a different way, to
make "door." Fragile? Door? Then I
thought of porte, which is French for door, obviously. I erased and connected
the dots to make "porte." I had the revelation that I could connect the dots to
make "cyborg," and "platypus,"
and "boobs," and even "Oskar," if you
were extremely Chinese. I could
connect them to make almost anything I
wanted, which meant I wasn't
getting closer to anything. And now I'll
never know what I was supposed to
find. And that's another reason I can't
I'm not allowed to watch TV, although I
am allowed to rent
documentaries that are approved for me,
and I can read anything I want. My
favorite book is A Brief History of
Time, even though I haven't actually
it, because the math is incredibly hard
and Mom isn't good at helping me.
One of my favorite parts is the
beginning of the first chapter, where
Hawking tells about a famous scientist
who was giving a lecture about how
the earth orbits the sun, and the sun
orbits the solar system, and whatever.
Then a woman in the back of the room
raised her hand and said, "What you
have told us is rubbish. The world is
really a flat plate supported on the back
of a giant tortoise." So the scientist
asked her what the tortoise was standing
on. And she said, "But it's turtles all
the way down!"
I love that story, because it shows how
ignorant people can be.
And also because I love tortoises.
A few weeks after the worst day, I
started writing lots of letters. I
don't know why, but it was one of the
only things that made my boots lighter.
One weird thing is that instead of using
normal stamps, I used stamps from
my collection, including valuable ones,
which sometimes made me wonder if
what I was really doing was trying to
get rid of things. The first letter I wrote
was to Stephen Hawking. I used a stamp
of Alexander Graham Bell.
Dear Stephen Hawking,
Can I please be your protégé?
I thought he wasn't going to respond,
because he was such an
amazing person and I was so normal. But
then one day I came home from
school and Stan handed me an envelope
and said, "You've got mail!" in the AOL voice I taught him. I ran up the 105
stairs to our apartment, and ran to my laboratory, and went into my closet, and
turned on my flashlight, and opened it. The letter inside was typed, obviously,
because Stephen Hawking can't use his hands, because he has amyotrophic lateral
sclerosis, which I know about, unfortunately.
Thank you for your letter. Because
of the large volume of mail I receive, I am unable to write personal responses.
Nevertheless, know that I read and save every letter, with the hope of one day
being able to give each the proper response it deserves. Until that day,
I called Mom's cell. "Oskar?" "You picked up before
it rang." "Is everything OK?" "I'm gonna need a laminator." "A laminator?" "There's
something incredibly wonderful that I
want to preserve."
From Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close,
pages 1-15. Copyright © 2005 by Jonathan Safran
Foer. Reprinted by permission of
Houghton Mifflin Company.