June 25, 2005

She reads! And then she rambles!

Books! I have read a few! They're all sitting here waiting to be written about, but I just haven't had as much computer time as I am accustomed to, so my backlog is piling up. But let's get to it, shall we? Let's begin by moving along from manly man Hemingway to his opposite: Jonathan Safran Foer.

I am late in the game on this one: Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. Everyone probably knows this book by now, right? Nine-year-old Oskar Schell lost his father in the September 11 attacks. In the wake of his loss, he finds a strange key in his father's closet, and subsequently makes his way all over New York City in search of its matching lock. Oskar's story is by turns funny and heartbreaking, and his narrative voice is unique, and interesting. Then half of the book involves his grandparents and their lives in war-torn Dresden, but those parts are not nearly as engrossing as the parts involving Oskar.

The book can be gimmicky at times, but I liked it. I bought the hype - and oh, was this book hyped. JSF is lauded as a wunderkind, and he is certainly, obviously gifted. I'm totally jealous. Salman fucking Rushdie calling your book "an exceptional achievement?" How in the world must that feel? I did like the book. I would recommend it to anyone. It gives you not only a good story, but as I read it, I also felt that it is somehow an interesting and current part of American (pop?) culture, and not only because it deals with recent historic events, still raw. To this point, I cannot improve on Matthew Wilder's succinct synopsis: "Extremely is old-timey yiddishkeit tear-jerking in hipster garments--it's Tuesdays with Morrie for the yellow Converse set."

Well, it is. It's true. Wilder's issue with JSF's celebrity is that he is part of a more widespread phenomena: the "new male infantilism." It's cool to be a geek. Sensitive and "smart", and skinny, pale. And people such as JSF - young, intelligent, Jewish guy from Brooklyn - are reaping the benefits. Yeah, it's starting to get goofy, all these Seth Cohens running around. But the thing is, for me? I have always liked guys like that. I have dated my fair share of brawny, blonde red-staters. But these people, the sensitive and sarcastic bleeding-heart liberal arts graduates? That's what my friends are like. These are the guys I sincerely love. I may join Wilder in mocking the proliferation of the man-child, but I also have to admit my soft spot. I mean, I own a copy of Rushmore. Yesterday I did admire a co-worker's slick OP jacket. I am the prime sucker audience for that crap. So I admit it. I liked Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. So sue me.


big mo said...

Have you ever read the story about what he did while he was writing this novel--recovering from the success of Everything is Illuminated and cogitating the plot of this one--it's a cool unconfirmed possibly apocryphal but highly likely "job" that he took on. [I know some of the facts and am going to make up what I don't remember clearly--the broad point is still valid.] Apparently there was this magic genie machine (I think in Brooklyn) that was on the sidewalk and people could walk up to it and ask it a question, and out would pop a written answer. Except the answer wasn't a stock, preprinted answer that you might expect from a machine. It was totally on point to the question, no matter how specific or weird; and if the person asked a follow-up question, the genie would answer that, too--would almost engage in conversation, until dispensing a final word of wisdom and shutting up. Turns out the genie was hooked up to a speaker wired to an apartment across the street, and the computer in that apartment was hooked up to the genie's paper answer dispenser. And it was JSF who manned the keyboard--he sat there for long stretches at a time just answering peoples questions, giving their fortunes, dispensing yiddish/hipster/fatalistic/hopeful advice and cryptic guidance. Gotta love that.

Ms Draggletail said...

Seriously? I do love that. That is so interesting, and off-the-wall. I usually go for walks when I'm bored, but now I'm going to want to set up a genie machine.