03 – On “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close” or How I Accidentally Read a Book about 9/11

I didn’t know anything about Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. No blurb, no review, no whatever. I didn’t even know a movie was coming out (or has it come out already) until I’d finished reading and someone on my WordPress reading list mentioned the movie.

Sort of a coincidence, I suppose.

The thing is I’m not a person who actively goes out and looks for things that will make me cry. I’ve never seen “Up”, solely because people said things like, “it’s so good it’ll make you cry”. When you say shit like that, you just know I’m out. Done. I’m not getting into the “Lion King” trap all over again.

But lo and behold: I unwittingly picked something that doesn’t just talk about a tragedy; it talks about one of the worst tragedies I can actually remember. I’m not one to compare tragedies. It takes infinite patience not to smack people who say, “well so-and-so war had more victims than 9/11”. Who the fuck even thinks that’s a good idea? A tragedy is a tragedy is a tragedy.

That said, I have this habit of writing down my immediate thoughts after finishing a book, but the one I write after reading Extremely Loud is far too personal to even share here.

Instead I would like to say this: every man (woman and child) is an island when in mourning. No one has a monopoly of what “correct” grieving should be. No one knows the best way to get through anything. No one knows a secret shortcut that gets you through grieving faster. No one understands, because everyone’s degree of grief varies.

Death itself, I actually don’t fear. Of course it’s not that I welcome it, either. But the point is that what frightens me more is the loss of a loved one, especially to such a violent death. And the guilt? It’s always there. It’s forever there. You always come up with ways wherein you could have better, kinder, more loving. For the living it doesn’t end.

You might be able to hide it somewhere in the back of your mind, but it never entirely goes away. Time and again this feeling returns, and the wound is as fresh as it always will be.

It’s not right to say “sometimes you never really get over a loss”. It’s “you never ever really get over a loss”. Some may learn to continue functioning. Some may be able to hide the pain. But it never, ever goes away.

*****

That said, this is my first time to read Jonathan Safran Foer, and I have to say: he’s incredible. He has a fantastic way with words,and although I think Oskar suffers the “Juno Syndrome”, it’s a great read nonetheless.

Juno Syndrome is when authors write language/slang that a particular age group normally wouldn’t use, making it look like they’re trying too hard. Of course I understand that Oskar is a weird little 9 year old, so he gets a pass. Still, “yo yo moi” is a little jarring and quite contrived, no?

I have to say the best scenes, for me, are when Oskar breaks down and turns into the 9 year old that he is, one who still needs his mom and who wants his dad back. I cried when he brought the phone to his grandfather and played the messages, asking to be forgiven.

Some have accused Foer of being a hack and riding the 9/11 wave. I honestly wouldn’t call it that. Foer has written a wonderful, heartbreaking story of trying to cope with grief and loss, and though he may have been more glib than necessary in the creation of his protagonist, it doesn’t take away from the novel’s final message: grief is universal, and we deal with loss whichever way we can, sometimes destroying ourselves in the process.

That’s being human.

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