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Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close: A Novel Hardcover – Apr 4 2005


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; First Edition edition (April 4 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0618329706
  • ISBN-13: 978-0618329700
  • Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 3 x 22.9 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 680 g
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (36 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #211,615 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

Oskar Schell, hero of this brilliant follow-up to Foer's bestselling Everything Is Illuminated, is a nine-year-old amateur inventor, jewelry designer, astrophysicist, tambourine player and pacifist. Like the second-language narrator of Illuminated, Oskar turns his naïvely precocious vocabulary to the understanding of historical tragedy, as he searches New York for the lock that matches a mysterious key left by his father when he was killed in the September 11 attacks, a quest that intertwines with the story of his grandparents, whose lives were blighted by the firebombing of Dresden. Foer embellishes the narrative with evocative graphics, including photographs, colored highlights and passages of illegibly overwritten text, and takes his unique flair for the poetry of miscommunication to occasionally gimmicky lengths, like a two-page soliloquy written entirely in numerical code. Although not quite the comic tour de force that Illuminated was, the novel is replete with hilarious and appalling passages, as when, during show-and-tell, Oskar plays a harrowing recording by a Hiroshima survivor and then launches into a Poindexterish disquisition on the bomb's "charring effect." It's more of a challenge to play in the same way with the very recent collapse of the towers, but Foer gambles on the power of his protagonist's voice to transform the cataclysm from raw current event to a tragedy at once visceral and mythical. 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.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From School Library Journal

Adult/High School-Oskar Schell is not your average nine-year-old. A budding inventor, he spends his time imagining wonderful creations. He also collects random photographs for his scrapbook and sends letters to scientists. When his father dies in the World Trade Center collapse, Oskar shifts his boundless energy to a quest for answers. He finds a key hidden in his father's things that doesn't fit any lock in their New York City apartment; its container is labeled "Black." Using flawless kid logic, Oskar sets out to speak to everyone in New York City with the last name of Black. A retired journalist who keeps a card catalog with entries for everyone he's ever met is just one of the colorful characters the boy meets. As in Everything Is Illuminated (Houghton, 2002), Foer takes a dark subject and works in offbeat humor with puns and wordplay. But Extremely Loud pushes further with the inclusion of photographs, illustrations, and mild experiments in typography reminiscent of Kurt Vonnegut's Breakfast of Champions (Dell, 1973). The humor works as a deceptive, glitzy cover for a fairly serious tale about loss and recovery. For balance, Foer includes the subplot of Oskar's grandfather, who survived the World War II bombing of Dresden. Although this story is not quite as evocative as Oskar's, it does carry forward and connect firmly to the rest of the novel. The two stories finally intersect in a powerful conclusion that will make even the most jaded hearts fall.-Matthew L. Moffett, Northern Virginia Community College, Annandale
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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Customer Reviews

3.7 out of 5 stars

Most helpful customer reviews

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Buggy TOP 500 REVIEWER on Aug. 16 2013
Format: Paperback
Reviewers seemed to either think this book was "absolute genius" or not be able to finish it. I fall somewhere in the middle because while as a whole it was haunting and unforgettable some sections were a struggle to get through.

Told from the mind of nine year old Oskar Schell, we enter his world about a year after the "The worst day" and subsequent death of his father during the 9/11 attacks at the World Trade Centre. It soon becomes apparent that Oskar is not your average nine year old. He is an inventor, a collector, musical prodigy, lover of Shakespeare, Stephen Hawking's pen pal and a detective. And his IQ and differences (possibly some form of autism or Asperger's syndrome) set him apart from his peers.

His father nurtured his above average intelligence, creating intricate mysteries for Oskar to solve and he felt closer to him than anyone, which is why he is having such a hard time coming to terms with his death. Oscar can't sleep and is continually inventing ways to stop buildings from falling to the ground. He has also developed rules that make it easier for him to function in the world and not "wear heavy boots" i.e.-feel anxious. He only wears white clothes, won't go above the 6th floor in buildings, won't ride elevators or ferries and gives himself bruises when he feels particularly anxious or lies about something.

One day while smelling the clothes in his father's closet Oskar stumbles upon a blue vase and in turn a key and a letter that simply says "Black". Taking it upon himself to solve this one last mystery Oskar sets off to find information about the key. After going through the phone book Oskar discovers that there are 472 people with the name Black living in New York, surely one of them will know something about the key.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Barry Francis on Dec 28 2012
Format: Paperback
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, by Jonathan Safran Foer, is incredibly close to being a great read. The plot is imaginative and both funny and sad at the same time. Although highly compelling, the book falls short in its excessively lengthy and complex story line which would have benefited from some skillful editing.

The main character is nine-year-old Oskar Schell, a whip-smart boy whose father died in the world trade center on 9-11. Oskar has an especially close relationship with his father, who may suspect his child has Asperger's Syndrome, and stimulates him with challenges, puzzles and mysteries.

An aspiring inventor, Oskar imagines amazing creations, collects random photographs for his scrapbook and sends numerous letters to famous scientists, including Stephen Hawking.

Let off school early on that fateful day, Oskar cannot bear to pick up the phone for his father's last desperate calls which are recorded on the family answering machine. Driven by guilt and sadness, he hides the machine from his mother. In the aftermath, he finds a key hidden in his father's things in an envelope marked "Black."

Believing that the key will somehow unlock a mystery devised by his late father, Oskar sets out to speak to everyone in New York named Black, aided by his mute grandfather (a survivor of the WWII bombing of Dresden). His goal is to find the lock that matches that mysterious key.

Using a complex indexing system that he devises, he undertakes this seemingly impossible task that brings him into contact with a range of interesting people in an exhilarating, often hilarious, and ultimately healing odyssey.

Some reviewers think the book is exploitive of the 911 tragedy. I don't. The incredible trauma caused by that event is an essential element of the plot.

My advice: If you like the book, see the movie. It's what the book could have been.

Barry Francis
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By J. Tobin Garrett on Aug. 23 2009
Format: Paperback
As with Foer's first novel, Everything is Illuminated, he uses multi-character narratives and weaves them together to create a disorienting, but ultimately connected set of stories that culminate in a great ending. Although some may call Foer's writing gimmicky with its use of letters, historical bending, images, and stylistic flourishes, he manages to use these for a purpose rather than simply as a way to show off his Writing 101 skills. I'm not sure if he can sustain this for a third novel, as it would be nice to see him evolve.

The story follows the aftermath of a boy who loses his father in the 9/11 towers, but also includes scenes from WW2 and the history of the boy's family. The boy finds a key from his late father and goes in search of what the key opens. In this way the story has elements of a mystery, kind of an elementary detective story with a child as the protagonist. We meet a huge cast of quirky and oddball characters, who have charming conversations and strange personalities. Reading this novel is like piecing a puzzle together, where in the beginning there are so many pieces that you're sure they can't all belong to the same puzzle image, but sure enough as you piece them together and keep going a strong and united image emerges.

A better novel than his first one, I would say. More daring and authentic. Heartbreaking as well as hilariously funny in parts. It has been a novel I have thought about well after finishing it, and I'm sure I'll read it again one day.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful By J. Borhi on June 15 2006
Format: Paperback
This is a beautifully written book about loss & recovery, and expression & humanity within relationships. The way we do & do not communicate with each other. The last few chapters & the ending will pull you by the heart & will not ask for mercy, it is so fulfilling.

There are two types of books: when finished a book & someone asks you how it was, you tell them what it was about; the second type of book, when finished, you can only describe how it made you feel.

Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close is the latter.
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