Oskar Schell, a precocious nine-year-old who lives in New York City, is the protagonist In Jonathan Safran Foer’s popular post-9/11 novel, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. Oskar's active mind keeps endlessly creating new inventions, most of them somehow related to saving lives and making connections with other people. In other words, he's trying to find a way to prevent “the worst day” from ever happening and thus regain the human connection he lost when his father was killed in the World Trade Center attacks on September 11, 2001. As Oskar says, he is "wearing heavy boots."
His dad used to devise elaborate puzzles for Oskar, which they called Reconnaissance
Expeditions, involving maps and clues and interacting with other people to find the solution. The last puzzle his dad gave him before he died is still unsolved. It involved a mythical sixth borough that drifted away from Manhattan, and Oskar’s mission was to find the clue that proved its existence.
When Oskar accidentally finds a mysterious key in an envelope hidden in a blue vase on the top shelf of his father’s closet, he leaps to the conclusion that this is a clue to the unsolved puzzle. He decides to find the lock that the key fits because there may be a message waiting there from his dad. Because of school, he can only search on Saturdays and Sundays, and he figures it will take at least eight months. He plans to keep it a secret from his mother, who is still dealing with her own grief. During the course of his secret search, he visits all five boroughs and meets people from many ethnicities and socioeconomic levels. One of the interesting hooks in the book is the inclusion of pictures and maps from Oskar’s scrapbook plus the things he finds on his search. The impression is that you are seeing the same clues he does.
Here are the links in the NYPL catalog
to the printed book, eBook, and audio book. The book was published in 2005, relatively soon after 9/11.
How long do you think it takes before the definitive book about a historic event can be written? Why is there a delay?
In your opinion, what is the novel most associated with World War I and when was it written? What about WWII? The Vietnam War? The American Civil War? What other post-9/11 novels have you read?
I’d love to hear your opinions. Next week we’ll talk about the author and the movie. See you then.