Summary and book reviews of Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

By Jonathan Safran Foer

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
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  • Hardcover: Apr 2005,
    368 pages.
    Paperback: Apr 2006,
    368 pages.

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Book Summary

Jonathan Safran Foer emerged as one of the most original writers of his generation with his best-selling debut novel, Everything Is Illuminated. Now, with humor, tenderness, and awe, he confronts the traumas of our recent history. What he discovers is solace in that most human quality, imagination.

Meet Oskar Schell, an inventor, Francophile, tambourine player, Shakespearean actor, jeweler, pacifist, correspondent with Stephen Hawking and Ringo Starr. He is nine years old. And he is on an urgent, secret search through the five boroughs of New York. His mission is to find the lock that fits 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. Along the way he is always dreaming up inventions to keep those he loves safe from harm. What about a birdseed shirt to let you fly away? What if you could actually hear everyone's heartbeat? His goal is hopeful, but the past speaks a loud warning in stories of those who've lost loved ones before.

As Oskar roams New York, he encounters a motley assortment of humanity who are all survivors in their own way. He befriends a 103-year-old war reporter, a tour guide who never leaves the Empire State Building, and lovers enraptured or scorned. 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.

What The?

What about a teakettle? What if the spout opened and closed when the steam came out, so it would become a mouth, and it could whistle pretty melodies, or do Shakespeare, or just crack up with me? I could invent a teakettle that reads in Dad's voice, so I could fall asleep, or maybe a set of kettles that sings the chorus of "Yellow Submarine," which is a song by the Beatles, who I love, because entomology is one of my raisons d'être, which is a French expression that I know. Another good thing is that I could train my anus to talk when I farted. If I wanted to be extremely hilarious, I'd train it to say, "Wasn't me!" every time I made an incredibly bad fart. And if I ever made an incredibly bad fart in the Hall of Mirrors, which is in Versailles, which is outside of Paris, which is in France, obviously, my anus would say, "Ce n'étais pas moi!"

What about little microphones? What if everyone swallowed them, ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
Introduction

Meet Oskar Schell, an inventor, Francophile, tambourine player, Shakespearean actor, jeweler, pacifist, correspondent with Stephen Hawking and Ringo Starr. He is nine years old. And he is on an urgent, secret search through the five boroughs of New York. His mission is to find the lock that fits 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. Along the way he is always dreaming up inventions to keep those he loves safe from harm. What about a birdseed shirt to let you fly away? What if you could actually hear everyone'...
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Reviews

BookBrowse

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close is both brilliant and compelling. I love it when a book can stop me in my tracks by offering a style of writing quite different to the norm. Take your time over this one, because it's shorter than it looks.   (Reviewed by BookBrowse Review Team).

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Media Reviews
Publishers Weekly

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.

Booklist

No spoilers here, but we will say that the book--which includes a number of photographs and some eccentric typography--ends with what is undoubtedly the most beautiful and heartbreaking flip book in all of literature.

Kirkus Reviews

The search for the lock that fits a mysterious key dovetails with related and parallel quests in this (literally) beautifully designed second novel from the gifted young author (Everything Is Illuminated, 2002).

The New York Times - Michiko Kakutani

[Foer's] depiction of Oskar's reaction to phone messages left by his father as he awaited rescue in the burning World Trade Center, his description of Oskar's grandfather's love affair with Anna and his experiences during the bombing of Dresden - these passages underscore Mr. Foer's ability to evoke, with enormous compassion and psychological acuity, his characters' emotional experiences, and to show how these private moments intersect with the great public events of history.

Reader Reviews
Cloggie Downunder

moving, brilliant
Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close is the 2nd novel by Jonathan Safran Foer. The main story is narrated by nine-year-old Oskar Schell whose father, Thomas, died on 9/11. Some years after his Thomas’s death, Oskar finds a key in his father’s closet...   Read More

Sara

Best Book Ever
This book was absolutely fantastic. Though it was complicated, it was amazing. The exploration of human grief and the experience of loss touched me on a deeper level than a single book has ever touched me. Way to go Johnny!!!!

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Beyond the Book

Jonathan Safran Foer is the author of the bestseller Everything is Illuminated (2002), which was published when he was 25 years old and won multiple awards, and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (2005). He lives in Brooklyn, New York.

A movie of Everything Is Illuminated was planned for release in 2005 but appears to be still 'in production' with an estimated release date of 2007.

When Foer was 8 years old a failed science experiment caused an explosion that ripped through the classroom searing his hands and...

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