Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer – Book Review


Years ago in Talin, Estonia, I needed a book to read. I went to a department store and found the English language book section and searched. I kept coming back to Everything is Illuminated, but wasn’t sure if this is what I wanted. Finally, I picked it up and discovered one of my favourite books ever. Returning to Australia, it was not long before I discovered this, Safran Foer’s second book. It’s very different to the first, but I loved it so much.

Oskar Schell is a young boy whose father died in the September 11 attacks in New York. He was already an unusual character, but in trying to find his way through his grief, he needs to go on his own journey, seeking clues that might help him understand things that have happened.

I just love this so much. Oskar is such a tricky character, and seeing his mother and the world around him through his eyes was fascinating. And then there are the other stories; the stories of his grandmother and grandfather and the war and of immigration. Told in such an unusual way; such a wonderful way.

When the film of this came out, I dreaded it, but I watched it anyhow and really enjoyed it. Now I want to see it again, to see if I still appreciate it.

I am not interested in reading Safran Foer’s third book, a non-fiction called Eating Animals about vegetarianism. I recently became excited to discover that he has a third novel – and then learned that it is not a novel, but an artwork. He took a book called Street of Crocodiles by Bruno Schulz and edited it to remove sections. Not black them out, but physically remove them. He them had a series of these printed, but due to the tricky nature of the work, there are not many and they are very expensive. Perhaps one day I can get my hands on one. His next book, Escape from Children’s Hospital is due out this year. I can’t wait.

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (2011) Film Review


This review originally appeared on www.melbournegeek.com in March 2012.

Jonathan Safran Foer is one of my favourite authors. His two fictions Everything is Illuminated and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close are two of my favourite ever books. I love the humour and absurdity and heart of his writing. At the cinema recently, I saw the trailer for Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close  and my heart sank. It looked awful. The problem is the marketing.

This is not a film about September 11.

But this is how it is being marketed, and I think that’s really wrong. Yes, (spoiler alert) the father died in one of the towers. This film is not about that – it’s about his son and how he deals (and cannot deal) with his grief. This is why I cried for two hours watching it.

At first, I was not happy with the choice of Thomas Horn as Oskar – he just wasn’t my Oskar, my little, nervous, weird, precocious Oskar. Plus he seems more like eleven or twelve than nine. As the film went on, he grew on me, and apart from a couple of overly schmaltzy, emotional moments, he was great. Especially the way he wields that tambourine! The casting of Tom Hanks and Sandra Bullock was a mistake, I reckon. I mean, they are both so recognisable that it is hard to see them as anything other than who they are, and I found it hard to separate that. Mind you, they both made me cry, so I guess they had their acting chops on.

I wonder if the reviewers who are hating this film have read the book.

I wonder if it is my absolute love of this book that has lead me to love the film – I don’t need to try to understand it. I’ve been through all the disbelief and incredulousness as I read (how can anyone let a nine-year-old wander around New York on his own like that?) and was able to just enjoy the ride. This is a clear example of when a trailer ruins a film; don’t watch the trailer. And when you see this film, take lots of tissues.

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close was nominated for Oscars for Best Motion Picture of the Year and Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role (Max Von Sydow)