“Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close”
By Jonathan Safran Foer
Call number: PS3606.O38 E97 2005
Oskar Schell was only nine years old when his father was killed in the World Trade Center attack on September 11. A bright but awkward boy, Oskar narrates his story with a surprisingly expressive vocabulary, describing his sadness as “walking with heavy boots.” As readers, we know that we’re encountering a unique character when we hear that he calms his anxieties by playing “Flight of the Bumblebee” on the tambourine.
When he finds a key among his father’s belongings, Oskar decides that his father has left a secret message for him to find and thus embarks on an imaginative mission across the five boroughs of New York City to find what the key unlocks. Many of the characters he meets along the journey are also dealing with some form of grief and loss.
A secondary plot, revolving around Oskar’s grandparents and the WWII bombing of Dresden, Germany provides a less effective parallel to the 2001 tragedy. A unique feature of Foer’s book involves meaningful graphic devices, including blank pages, several sentences made entirely from numbers, photos in flipbook form, and a few paragraphs crowded so densely with words that they become unreadable. The author uses several forms of symbolism to show a variety of ways in which people can hide from despair or tune out sadness. But, as implied in the book’s title, the text gets in your face extremely loud and incredibly close and reminds us that no one can hide forever from the deep emotions that come with loss. And young Oskar’s quest ultimately leads to a more hopeful and (literally) uplifting conclusion.
“Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close” is available in the University Library at both campuses. Additionally, online databases, such as Project Muse and Humanities Full Text, are a great resource for reading reviews and literary analysis.