Customer Review

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Another unfulfilled promise, Aug. 15 2003
This review is from: Everything Is Illuminated: A Novel (Paperback)
In in the interest of keeping this bashing brief and to the point, Foer fails to deliver the goods for the following reasons: lazy writing, ignorance of exploited subject matter, contrived characters and dramatic developments, cheap use of literary gimmicks to cover up lack of story.
Dear reader, allow me to bore and irritate you by declaring that Foer is utterly ignorant of the Russian language, Ukrainian customs, and my native city of Odessa. Allegedly, he shrugs his lack of research off with a laugh. This rather alarming habit of trivializing the importance of factual subject matter is disgusting not because it violates some objective paradigm of literary virtue, but because it exploits a grave and meaty subject while laughing off the hard work it deserves. Perhaps Foer thinks that his lazy scattering and transpositioning of English words transcends a dozen hours of mechanically generated Thesaurus entries. It does not.
Further along the same lines, the character of Alex is nothing more than a monkey sitting at an aforementioned electronic thesaurus and spitting out strings of unfunny, un-Russian, and lazy gibberish. If Foer wasn't busy trying to hack out Clockwork Orange or Catch-22, he might have spent more hours at a library or even bothered to learn some Russian to at the very least recognize speech patterns. Instead, we have a 'clever' 300 page wordplay and sketches.
Now, as for the subject itself, Foer, like so many polished young writers without anything to write about, chooses to borrow drama from someone else; not only a person, but a time. Like so many writers of little imagination, he digs in a fictional past (which he, once again, fails to investigate). So, Foer chooses to rewrite history and manipulate tragedy to infuse his story with an adequate sense of importance. WWII and the Holocaust, 2 of the major cataclysms of the modern era, are thrown into Foer's meatgrinder. This because the writer is so dry that he has to travel to another land and time - no, to invent another land and time (while affecting their reality) to spark his mind.
Oh, you might think that the story is redeemed by Foer's wicked satirical abilities. About the only scene I found funny was the potato-dropping incident in the restaurant. Shame on you Mr. Foer for butchering the English language (and not in any positive way). Shame on you for writing a fictitious piece of fictional storytelling.
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