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9780618329700

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

Foer, Jonathan Safran Author

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9780618329700: Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

Jonathan Safran Foer emerged as one of the most original writers of his generation with his best-selling debut novel, Everything Is Illuminated. Now, with humor, tenderness, and awe, he confronts the traumas of our recent history. What he discovers is solace in that most human quality, imagination.
Meet Oskar Schell, an inventor, Francophile, tambourine player, Shakespearean actor, jeweler, pacifist, correspondent with Stephen Hawking and Ringo Starr. He is nine years old. And he is on an urgent, secret search through the five boroughs of New York. His mission is to find the lock that fits a mysterious key belonging to his father, who died in the World Trade Center on 9/11.
An inspired innocent, Oskar is alternately endearing, exasperating, and hilarious as he careens from Central Park to Coney Island to Harlem on his search. Along the way he is always dreaming up inventions to keep those he loves safe from harm. What about a birdseed shirt to let you fly away? What if you could actually hear everyone's heartbeat? His goal is hopeful, but the past speaks a loud warning in stories of those who've lost loved ones before. As Oskar roams New York, he encounters a motley assortment of humanity who are all survivors in their own way. He befriends a 103-year-old war reporter, a tour guide who never leaves the Empire State Building, and lovers enraptured or scorned. Ultimately, Oskar ends his journey where it began, at his father's grave. But now he is accompanied by the silent stranger who has been renting the spare room of his grandmother's apartment. They are there to dig up his father's empty coffin.

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About the Author:

JONATHAN SAFRAN FOER is the author of the novels Everything is Illuminated and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, and a work of nonfiction, Eating Animals. His books have won numerous awards and have been translated into 36 languages. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

What The?

What about a teakettle? What if the
spout opened and closed when the
steam came out, so it would become a
mouth, and it could whistle pretty
melodies, or do Shakespeare, or just
crack up with me? I could invent a
teakettle that reads in Dad's voice, so
I could fall asleep, or maybe a set of
kettles that sings the chorus of "Yellow
Submarine," which is a song by the
Beatles, who I love, because entomology
is one of my raisons d'être, which
is a French expression that I know.
Another good thing is that I could train
my anus to talk when I farted. If I
wanted to be extremely hilarious, I'd
train it
to say, "Wasn't me!" every time I made
an incredibly bad fart. And if I ever
made an incredibly bad fart in the Hall
of Mirrors, which is in Versailles,
which is outside of Paris, which is in
France, obviously, my anus would
say, "Ce n'étais pas moi!"
What about little microphones? What if
everyone swallowed them,
and they played the sounds of our hearts
through little speakers, which could
be in the pouches of our overalls? When
you skateboarded down the street at
night you could hear everyone's
heartbeat, and they could hear yours,
sort of
like sonar. One weird thing is, I wonder
if everyone's hearts would start to
beat at the same time, like how women
who live together have their
menstrual periods at the same time,
which I know about, but don't really
want to know about. That would be so
weird, except that the place in the
hospital where babies are born would
sound like a crystal chandelier in a
houseboat, because the babies wouldn't
have had time to match up their
heartbeats yet. And at the finish line
at the end of the New York City
Marathon it would sound like war.
And also, there are so many times when
you need to make a
quick escape, but humans don't have
their own wings, or not yet, anyway, so
what about a birdseed shirt?
Anyway.
My first jujitsu class was three and a
half months ago. Self-
defense was something that I was
extremely curious about, for obvious
reasons, and Mom thought it would be
good for me to have a physical activity
besides tambourining, so my first
jujitsu class was three and a half months
ago. There were fourteen kids in the
class, and we all had on neat white
robes. We practiced bowing, and then we
were all sitting down Native
American style, and then Sensei Mark
asked me to go over to him. "Kick my
privates," he told me. That made me feel
self-conscious. "Excusez-moi?" I
told him. He spread his legs and told
me, "I want you to kick my privates as
hard as you can." He put his hands at
his sides, and took a breath in, and
closed his eyes, and that's how I knew
that actually he meant
business. "Jose," I told him, and inside
I was thinking, What the? He told
me, "Go on, guy. Destroy my privates."
"Destroy your privates?" With his
eyes still closed he cracked up a lot
and said, "You couldn't destroy my
privates if you tried. That's what's
going on here. This is a demonstration of
the well-trained body's ability to
absorb a direct blow. Now destroy my
privates." I told him, "I'm a pacifist,"
and since most people my age don't
know what that means, I turned around
and told the others, "I don't think it's
right to destroy people's privates.
Ever." Sensei Mark said, "Can I ask you
something?" I turned back around and
told him, " 'Can I ask you something?'
is asking me something." He said, "Do
you have dreams of becoming a
jujitsu master?" "No," I told him, even
though I don't have dreams of running
the family jewelry business anymore. He
said, "Do you want to know how a
jujitsu student becomes a jujitsu
master?" "I want to know everything," I
told
him, but that isn't true anymore either.
He told me, "A jujitsu student
becomes a jujitsu master by destroying
his master's privates." I told
him, "That's fascinating." My last
jujitsu class was three and a half months
ago.
I desperately wish I had my tambourine
with me now, because
even after everything I'm still wearing
heavy boots, and sometimes it helps to
play a good beat. My most impressive
song that I can play on my tambourine
is "The Flight of the Bumblebee," by
Nicolai Rimsky-Korsakov, which is also
the ring tone I downloaded for the cell
phone I got after Dad died. It's pretty
amazing that I can play "The Flight of
the Bumblebee," because you have to
hit incredibly fast in parts, and that's
extremely hard for me, because I don't
really have wrists yet. Ron offered to
buy me a five-piece drum set. Money
can't buy me love, obviously, but I
asked if it would have Zildjian cymbals. He
said, "Whatever you want," and then he
took my yo-yo off my desk and
started to walk the dog with it. I know
he just wanted to be friendly, but it
made me incredibly angry. "Yo-yo moi!" I
told him, grabbing it back. What I
really wanted to tell him was "You're
not my dad, and you never will be."
Isn't it so weird how the number of
dead people is increasing even
though the earth stays the same size, so
that one day there isn't going to be
room to bury anyone anymore? For my
ninth birthday last year, Grandma
gave me a subscription to National
Geographic, which she calls "the National
Geographic." She also gave me a white
blazer, because I only wear white
clothes, and it's too big to wear so it
will last me a long time. She also gave
me Grandpa's camera, which I loved for
two reasons. I asked why he didn't
take it with him when he left her. She
said, "Maybe he wanted you to have it."
I said, "But I was negative-thirty years
old." She said, "Still." Anyway, the
fascinating thing was that I read in
National Geographic that there are more
people alive now than have died in all
of human history. In other words, if
everyone wanted to play Hamlet at once,
they couldn't, because there aren't
enough skulls!
So what about skyscrapers for dead
people that were built down?
They could be underneath the skyscrapers
for living people that are built up.
You could bury people one hundred floors
down, and a whole dead world
could be underneath the living one.
Sometimes I think it would be weird if
there were a skyscraper that moved up
and down while its elevator stayed in
place. So if you wanted to go to the
ninety-fifth floor, you'd just press the 95
button and the ninety-fifth floor would
come to you. Also, that could be
extremely useful, because if you're on
the ninety-fifth floor, and a plane hits
below you, the building could take you
to the ground, and everyone could be
safe, even if you left your birdseed
shirt at home that day.
I've only been in a limousine twice
ever. The first time was terrible,
even though the limousine was wonderful.
I'm not allowed to watch TV at
home, and I'm not allowed to watch TV in
limousines either, but it was still
neat that there was a TV there. I asked
if we could go by school, so
Toothpaste and The Minch could see me in
a limousine. Mom said that
school wasn't on the way, and we
couldn't be late to the cemetery. "Why
not?" I asked, which I actually thought
was a good question, because if you
think about it, why not? Even though I'm
not anymore, I used to be an
atheist, which means I didn't believe in
things that couldn't be observed. I
believed that once you're dead, you're
dead forever, and you don't feel
anything, and you don't even dream. It's
not that I believe in things that can't
be observed now, because I don't. It's
that I believe that things are extremely
complicated. And anyway, it's not like
we were actually burying him, anyway.
Even though I was trying hard for it
not to, it was annoying me
how Grandma kept touching me, so I
climbed into the front seat and poked
the driver's shoulder until he gave me
some attention. "What. Is. Your.
Designation." I asked in Stephen Hawking
voice. "Say what?" "He wants to
know your name," Grandma said from the
back seat. He handed me his card.

GERALD THOMPSON
Sunshine Limousine
serving the five boroughs
(212) 570-7249

I handed him my card and told him,
"Greetings. Gerald. I. Am.
Oskar." He asked me why I was talking
like that. I told him, "Oskar's CPU is
a neural-net processor. A learning
computer. The more contact he has with
humans, the more he learns." Gerald
said, "O" and then he said "K." I
couldn't tell if he liked me or not, so
I told him, "Your sunglasses are one
hundred dollars." He said, "One
seventy-five." "Do you know a lot of curse
words?" "I know a couple." "I'm not
allowed to use curse
words." "Bummer." "What's 'bummer'? "
"It's a bad thing." "Do you
know 'shit'?" "That's a curse, isn't
it?" "Not if you say 'shiitake.' " "Guess
not." "Succotash my Balzac,
dipshiitake." Gerald shook his head and...

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