Monday, March 14, 2005

Best Book in Ages

Walking home from school on Wednesday to get myself ready to fly to California I glanced at the display windows of the 6th Avenue Barnes and Noble and realized I was completely out of touch with important things because, much to my surprise, there was "Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close", Jonathan Safran Foer's (Everything is Illuminated) second novel. While my head was being occupied with finding a job and learning constitutional and international law (the other laws are all a pleasure to assimilate), "Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close" had gone from "coming out in March, 2005" to "came out in March, 2005." Naturally, I rushed into the store, bought my copy of the book, and all of a sudden my 6 1/2 hour flight to Los Angeles couldn't come quickly enough.

Back in 2003, I was having a terrible time trying to find a book I liked. It seeemed I was checking out a stack of books from the Newport Beach Library every week and returning those same books the next week because nothing held my attention beyond the first page. And then I checked out Safran Foer's first book, "Everything is Illuminated" and finally, there was something to read. If you've read "Everything is Illuminated" I probably don't have to go into why that book was so magnificent, and if you haven't read "Everything is Illuminated," I'd really rather talk about "Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close" right now, if that's all right with you.

Anyway, way back in February or March of 2004, I heard Jonathan Safran Foer read the first chapter of the work in progress that would be come "Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close" and it was stunning . . . Nick Hornby and Dave Eggers were at the same reading, and they read there, and what they brought had nothing on Safran Foer. As I knew absolutely nothing of the novel-to-be at the time, details that are now tossed about on the inside of the book jacket of the published version of the book instead unveiled themselves to the audience and it sent a chill down my spine. If I could have it my way, dear reader, I would simply have you go buy this book, make you promise to not read anything from the jacket, or to turn to the back of the book, or to read any other reviews of the book because the story itself is nearly perfectly told and revealed. Actually, I'd like that to be my official review of this book: "Buy it, start at the first page, and don't you dare look ahead." (Why not? Well, among other things, the book has PICTURES that went from initially striking me as gimmicky to incredibly poignant by the end of the book.

But, on the more detailed end, as far as I want to tell, the book is the story of a kid who might be my cousin Scotty who goes on an adventure in New York City. I'd really rather not say more than that (if you're all booky, you probably already know what this book is all about.) Safran Foer distinguished himself as quite inventive in "Everything is Illuminated" (little bit of footnote: for Safran Foer at his most inventive, you ought to seek out his short story "Primer for the Punctiation of Heart Disease") and with "Extremely Loud" he returns with another set of distinct and well-developed narrators and intertwined stories, set in the past and present that race towards a conclusion full of revelations. While there are many similarities between the two novels, "Extremely Loud" is reassuring distinct from Safran Foer's first book and it's overall excellence is a sure sign that this author, who shares my birthyear, will be making myself and others feel dumb for years to come.

On the Brigham side, let me say that I read 4/5 of the book on my flight to California. I swallowed it in hungry and fascinated gulps that left my brain hurting . . . not merely because the book is something of a pageturner, but I had to know, as soon as possible, as much about the book as possible. By the time I finished I realized there were numerous details I wanted to go back to and go over again, and in a perfect world, I'd have all the time and energy to get to know this book back and forth. In closing, if you liked "Everything is Illuminated", I strongly recommend this book. If you haven't read "Everything is Illuminated", I strongly recommend this book. If whatever you're reading right now (not counting Steady Mobbin', of course) isn't leaving you fully satisfied, just set that book down and go get a copy of "Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close." It is good, and no, you don't need to have read "Everything is Illuminated" first.

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