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February 08, 2006
Writing about web page http://www.jonathansafranfoer.com/
Just in case it wasn't clear, this is an entry about a novel. Jonathan Safran Foer is the author of Everything Is Illuminated [_which I'll start reading soon, and a film review can be read here
I got this book in a new year daze. My friend and I had the best new year's day one could wish for, which ended with watching 4 or 5 episodes of Grey's Anatomy, but somewhere between getting up at 4pm and going to bed at 2am, we were mesmerized for 3 hours by an amazing man. An amazing man that she [my friend] henceforth
fell in love with has had an "art crush" on. Anyway, that was Jonathan Safran Foer in an interview held by Kristien Hemmerechts, a well-known [in Holland and Belgium] Flemish author, but a poor interviewer.
Fortunately, Foer was well prepared and knew exactly where he wanted to go with the interview, and managed to link his fascination for Woody Allen to his fascination for Stephen Hawking. He says all the right things, and seems to have the right channels open to link his feelings to his mouth. At one point he commented on the difference between his book and the film Everything Is Illuminated. Like every other adaption, the film deviated from the book at parts, and he was asked to what extent he minded. He related the issue to a possible situation where I painter would want to paint a portrait of someone described in his book.
To paint the right portrait, the painter won't read the description word for word, but instead will find out the person's character and role in the book. Similarly, the director of the film looked at the story of which Foer's book was an image [it's all quite mathematical, really], and as the film struck the right chords, told essentially the same story as the book, Foer saw no problems with passages being left out. [Please note that I saw the interview over a month ago with a hangover, and I obviously can't tell it as brilliantly as one of the best authors of our time].
Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close is about a young boy, Oscar, who lost his dad on 9-11. He finds a key amongst his dad's belongings and the real-time story is about the boy's quest to find the lock. The link to 9-11 is subtle, and mainly appears through the boy's thoughts of how his dad might have died [was he so desperate that he jumped out of the window?] and his fears. This boy is however better described by his desire to learn, to invent, to make a difference. In that, he's so annoying that he become endearing - he actually reminded me of how Harry Altman from Spellbound was portrayed [see photo, or actually, watch that film!].
When watching a film, I expect to see wonderful images, or people or things portrayed in a way that looks into their soul. The story is generally told in 2 hours, and the director should use the medium to its full extent to let the audience understand the characters, the things, the wonderful images. With a book, the length is less limited, though every page should have its existence justified.
I've written earlier about Nick Hornby and Tony Parsons, and whether or not it's literature. Well, Jonathan Safran Foer has set the standard. Even though half the pages don't contain more than a single word, every single one of them is valid and constitutes to the body of the story. No words are spilled in vain, and the author has played with the layout of the book in order to make the literary experience more engaging – he lets you see what the characters see.
I haven't had this much fun reading a book in a while, and I would highly recommend it to anyone who loves to read.