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Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (2005)

by Jonathan Safran Foer

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
16,558468309 (4.06)326
Nine-year-old Oskar Schell is a precocious Francophile who idolizes Stephen Hawking and plays the tambourine extremely well. He's also a boy struggling to come to terms with his father's death in the World Trade Center attacks. As he searches New York City for the lock that fits a mysterious key he left behind, Oskar discovers much more than he could have imagined.… (more)
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    BookshelfMonstrosity: The precocious young narrators in each of these novels embark on journeys alone, providing illustrations to enhance their complex narratives, which include family history as well as current concerns. T. S. travels across the U.S, while Oskar travels throughout New York City.… (more)
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» See also 326 mentions

English (433)  Dutch (15)  Danish (5)  French (5)  Italian (3)  Swedish (3)  German (2)  Spanish (1)  Catalan (1)  All languages (468)
Showing 1-5 of 433 (next | show all)
I read a good portion of this novel before I even remotely began to like it. There is the narrator, Oskar Schell, a young boy who has lost his father in the 9/11 attacks on the Twin Towers. I can only think that author Foer named his narrator Oskar Schell, as an allusion to Oskar Matzerath, the hero and unreliable narrator of Gunter Grass' great novel, The Tin Drum, and as an allusion to author Jonathon Schell, the prophet of nuclear annihilation. So Oskar is unreliable. So what. But then author Foer weaves into the story eyewitness accounts of the bombing of Hiroshima and Dresden. These accounts are so harrowing, so terrible, that my attention naturally moved from the almost trivial to the insanely purposeful. At the end of the novel Oskar begs his mother not to hospitalize him for mental illness, which was exactly the fate of Grass' protagonist. His story is almost too terrible to tell, the horror and meaningless acts of revenge in the name of the good and the holy. Much like the attacks on the Twin Towers. There is the parallel narrative of Oskar's grandfather who survived the Dresden massacre but lost almost everyone and everything he knew. This story is almost an inversion of the main story, both equally terrible and affecting. Oskar starts a letter-writing campaign to befriend astro-physicist Steven Hawking, most famously known for his book -- A Brief History of Time -- and his theries of black holes. There are many black holes in the narrative of this tale, and many typographical anomalies to shake us away from the literal narrative. I have not read other reviews of this book. I am sure some of the experimentation will not go unnoticed. The story is rich and provocative. It questions the power of text and the ironies of silence. It is certainly an ambitious work. ( )
  MylesKesten | Jan 23, 2024 |
A little bit predictable but lyrically written, emotionally wrenching, and engaging. ( )
  Blanket_Dragon | Jan 23, 2024 |
I read this while I was in New York. I completely loved it. I love precocious kids. I love mysteries. I love old people. I love Jonathan Safran Foer. I'm sloppy in love with this book. ( )
  LibrarianDest | Jan 3, 2024 |
Here's what I wrote in 2012 about this read: "Boy and his mom coping with the tradegy of 9/11, incredibly close. Essentially a study of loss, grieving, and recovery. Interesting parallels to grandparents' WWII experience in Dresden." ( )
  MGADMJK | Aug 31, 2023 |
Really sad but don't read the back, as the blurb gives away a reveal later on. ( )
  Emree | Aug 20, 2023 |
Showing 1-5 of 433 (next | show all)
The bigger problem is that Foer never lets his character wander off without an errand.

In fact, there is hardly a line in this book that has not been written for the purpose of eliciting a particular emotion from the reader. The novel is a tearjerker. ...The skepticism and satire that marked the best parts of Everything Is Illuminated are nowhere in evidence here.
added by jburlinson | editNew York Review of Books, Keith Gessen (pay site) (Sep 25, 2005)
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 searcher is nine-year-old Oskar Schell, an inventive prodigy who (albeit modeled on the protagonist of Grass's The Tin Drum) employs his considerable intellect with refreshing originality in the aftermath of his father Thomas's death following the bombing of the World Trade Center. That key, unidentified except for the word "black" on the envelope containing it, impels Oskar to seek out every New Yorker bearing the surname Black, involving him with a reclusive centenarian former war correspondent, and eventually the nameless elderly recluse who rents a room in his paternal grandma's nearby apartment. Meanwhile, unmailed letters from a likewise unidentified "Thomas" reveal their author's loneliness and guilt, while stretching backward to wartime Germany and a horrific precursor of the 9/11 atrocity: the firebombing of Dresden. In a riveting narrative animated both by Oskar's ingenuous assumption of adult responsibility and understanding (interestingly, he's "playing Yorick" in a school production of Hamlet) and the letter-writer's meaningful silences, Foer sprinkles his tricky text with interpolated illustrations that render both the objects of Oskar's many interests and the memories of a survivor who has forsworn speech, determined to avoid the pain of loving too deeply. The story climaxes as Oskar discovers what the key fits, and also the meaning of his life (all our lives, actually), in a long-awaited letter from astrophysicist Stephen Hawking. Much more is revealed as this brilliant fiction works thrilling variations on, and consolations for, its plangent message: that "in the end, everyone loses everyone." Yes, but look what Foer has found. Film rights to Scott Rudin in conjunction with Warner Bros. and Paramount; author tour.
added by cmwilson101 | editKirkus Reviews

» Add other authors (15 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Jonathan Safran Foerprimary authorall editionscalculated
Baardman, GerdaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Bocchiola, MassimoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Caruso, BarbaraNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Ferrone, RichardNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Nilsson, Hans-JacobTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Stheeman, TjadineTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Woodman, JeffNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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my idea of beautiful
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What about a teakettle?
I wondered for the first time in my life, if life was worth all the work it took to live. What exactly made it worth it?
So many people enter and leave your life! Hundreds of thousands of people! You have to keep the door open so they can come in! But it also means you have to let them go!
Shyness is when you turn your head away from something you want. Shame is when you turn your head away from something you do not want.
Time was passing like a hand waving from a train I wanted to be on.
Everything was a clue.
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Wikipedia in English (1)

Nine-year-old Oskar Schell is a precocious Francophile who idolizes Stephen Hawking and plays the tambourine extremely well. He's also a boy struggling to come to terms with his father's death in the World Trade Center attacks. As he searches New York City for the lock that fits a mysterious key he left behind, Oskar discovers much more than he could have imagined.

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Book description
Nine-year-old Oskar Schell is an inventor, amateur entomologist, Francophile, letter writer, pacifist, natural historian, percussionist, romantic, Great Explorer, jeweller, detective, vegan, and collector of butterflies.

When his father is killed in the September 11th attacks on the World Trade Centre, Oskar sets out to solve the mystery of a key he disovers in his father's closet. It is a search which leads him into the lives of strangers, through the five boroughs of New York, into history, to the bombings of Dresden and Hiroshima, and on an inward journey which brings him ever closer to some kind of peace.
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