Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Extremely Loud - the Second Time Around




I finished this late last night and I just couldn't sleep after that. Wow. Notice I wrote wow with a period after it and not an exclamation point. This is a quiet wow, a breathless wow and a sad wow all rolled into one because of how the ending affected me. Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer has blown me away with its beauty. And to think I read a few pages of this book last year and abandoned it. I only decided to give it another try after I loved his wife's book, Great House by Nicole Krauss. I'm fascinated by this young couple who are married, have two children, live in a brownstone in Brooklyn, New York and produce such heartbreaking works of art.


Krauss once said in an interview that they never discuss work and they only read each other's books once they are in proof form. There are definitely some similarities in their styles but they're both still quite different. However, it's obvious that one style influences the other and vice versa. How can it not with two writers living so close together? Of those two books above, the superior one for me is Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close. Of course, I have yet to read their other novels.

Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close has been described as being pretentious and to be honest that was what I first thought upon reading a few pages last year. 'I can't read this," I thought. "This isn't my style at all." The prose is loud and in your face There are run-on sentences and paragraphs that just go on and on. It does take some time to get used to. On my second reading, I persevered and after just a few pages, I was entranced by the wonderful protagonist, Oskar, and his impossible quest to find a lock that fits a key that belonged to his dead father. This is a book about memories, love, loss, loneliness, longing and managing to go on living after the one we love is gone. Heartbreaking and touching. A book to hug, to hold on to and cherish and put on the shelf next to my other favorite novels of all time. I'm so glad I gave this another chance.



This is also an incredibly visual book. A book that should be read in its print edition. There are photographs, blank pages with only a few words and 15 pages that form their own flip book. I also just found out that it's soon to be a film starring Tom Hanks and Sandra Bullock. A sure hit I'm sure but please, please, read the book first.

My next reads are The History of Love by Krauss and Everything is Illuminated by Foer. Which one do you recommend I read first? Both were books I abandoned years ago but ah...I am now certain that I gave up too soon. I suspect that I'll appreciate them more this time. Which goes to show that books, just like some things in life, have their time and place. A book you were not ready to read before maybe be the perfect one for you now. A book you abandoned long ago may be something you'd actually love now. Have you ever abandoned a book and then gave it another chance at another time? I'd love to hear your thoughts on this.

16 comments:

  1. EL & IC is my very favorite novel. I'm so happy you opted to give it a second chance. Everything is Illuminated is also wonderful, but I prefer Il & IC. If I were you, I'd read The History of Love next, then go for Everything is Illuminated.

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  2. Hooray for hitting up a book that you had shelved and given up on before.

    This was a book I would not have read on my own, had TNBBC not voted it in as a group read. And I am so thankful to the group for choosing it.

    It truly is breathtaking....

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  3. The History of Love was wonderful! I must read Extremely Loud...

    Mrs. Dalloway is a book I abandoned twice (ten years apart) before finally finishing. I loved it!

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  4. I read this book a few years ago and I liked it, but didn't LOVE it. I do feel that I kind of rushed through it, so I think I might appreciate it more on a second reading if I took the time to savor it.

    I have heard that whichever you read first, The History of Love, or Everything Is Illuminated, that is the book you will love. I personally read The History of Love and ADORED it so much, so I'm not sure that I'll be able to love either of Safran Foer's or Krauss's novels as much as I did that one.

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  5. Thanks so much for your review. I hadn't heard of this book, but now I'm very interested in reading it. You've made it sound so beautiful and haunting. Thanks.

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  6. They are both great, but I have the feeling Everything is Illuminated works better if you read it some time after ELaIC. I vote for The History of Love first.

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  7. I read this one ages ago and thought it was okay, but didn't love it. After reading so many wonderful reviews of it lately, I do wonder if perhaps I didn't give the book a proper chance. I might have to give it a re-read. As for which book to read first, I would suggest the Foer, but that is because I loved that book to pieces, whilst I just liked the Krauss book. Again, I do wonder if my mood at the time affected how much or little I liked those books. Hmmm. Glad to see you enjoyed it though and that you gave it a second chance. I rarely do that, but maybe it time I start.

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  8. great post-I am glad to see you are reading 20 Under 40 and will look forward to your post on it-I hope you and family are fine

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  9. I did not know they were married! I preferred Everything is Illuminated to both The History of Love and Extremely Loud. I find the visual effects a bit gimmicky/Tristram Shandy-y but if you like them you should check out his Visual Edition book - Tree of Code.

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  10. After reading your review, and Claire's I feel I ought to pick both of these up immediately. I own both of them, but somehow the sadness inherent to them both keeps me at bay. I think you have to be in a certain mood to handle sorrow, or come at it from a base of extra strength. What I read affects me so deeply.

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  11. @Belleza - Yes, I do think you have to be in the mood for them so just wait for the right time.

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  12. Wonderful review! Glad to know that you loved 'Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close'. I read it many years back for book club and I liked it, though I wouldn't say I loved it. I liked what you said about not liking a book when we read it for the first time and then loving it when we read it many years later. Maybe I should read this book again and see how I like it now. Thanks for the wonderful review :)

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  13. The History of Love is so so so so beautiful. I cried buckets over that book. I gave my sister a copy and after she finished in the middle of the night she called me long distance (halfway across the world) just because she couldn't sleep and had to talk about Leo Gursky, the protagonist. Everything is Illuminated is as beautiful, but a little (a teeny tiny pinch) less heavy, maybe because it is a LOT funny. I couldn't suppress my laughter there. I was like mad, laughing and crying at the same time. I'm glad that you didn't give away your books even when you abandoned them. If you loved this, you will love them.

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  14. LOve History of Love. Didn't like Everything is Illuminated that much the first time I read it, but am planning to read it again also.

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  15. Every time I see someone review a Foer or a Krauss novel, i read it. Then I consider if I'll get myself a copy of their novels or not. Right now, after reading your reviews, I'm seriously considering running to the nearest book store and getting myself a copy of their books.
    I never knew they were married. That was a surprising bit of trivia.

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  16. I first attempted ELaIC in the spring but the weather was too nice to allow me to read a book set in the Fall. When September came around, the time and place was perfect. I actually have a category of books called "Would love if I could only finish", because I think I might like but can't get into! Anna Karinenna, Sons and Lovers, Grapes of Wrath... I read Mrs.Dalloway twice before I fell in loe with that one.

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