I find there are three kinds of books when it comes to novels you just want to read for pleasure. First, there is the ‘good’ kind. The story is captivating, it has all the adequate elements to keep you glued to the book until the end. Then, comes the ‘bad’ kind. I know it’s not fair to criticize books when the authors have obviously put so much time and effort and my only effort is to read the words, but there are some stories that I just can’t bear to keep up with and don’t feel guilty for giving them up after some time. Finally, there is the ‘awkward’ kind. The story’s not bad but not good either. The novel has been acclaimed as best-seller and had received a few well-known awards and has even been made into a movie. And because of these accollades, you feel guilty giving the book up in the middle because you feel dumb not to appreciate it as others have done, and not intellectual enough to read between the lines. So you force yourself to hit that final page, trying to analyze the book as you go along, just as if you were studying it for a class. Sure, I have enjoyed analyzing a good piece of litterature during my undergraduate years and I would jump at the occasion to do so any time, but for something I want to read during my free time, I would rather skip the whole process and just enjoy the book.
‘Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close’ has been, alas, the same burden. Its background, its complex protagonists, but most of all, its style and display of the writing, have forced me to read it until the end just so that I wouldn’t feel stupid and guilty.
I guess if I did have to go through with it…
The author draws a parallel between the protagonists and different periods of time at different locations. Although the protagonists are blood-related, family connections are not what links them. It’s the loss of someone dear to them, and the search for that person in the real world that draws the two in their unique world, set aside from the ‘usual’ crowd. While Oskar mourns the death of his father, he holds dearly to the one clue he thinks his father has left him before the horrible 9/11. And so he roams around the city of New York, encountering a variety of people all with the family name of ‘Black’. He is a child none like any other, who has millions of things and facts to say, yet sometimes barely manages to get a word to his mother. The grandfather has lost his beloved during the war in Germany and unlike Oskar, he cannot utter a word and keeps his only way of communication -if it can even be called so- with short sentences written on a notebook, along with letters to his son he’s abandoned.
All in all, the book is the image of ‘confusion’. The words are often scattered around and what seems like random pictures are introduced here and there. Yet this ‘organization’ can be considered as a projection of how the protagonists feel. They are unable to understand what or why such tragedy has occured to them and they try dealing with their loss and grief in their own unique way. Shutting themselves off from the natural order of things is their way of coping with reality, and by doing so, they create their own order of things where things do make sense to their grief-stricken eyes.