My favorite book, no questions asked, is Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. Jonathan Safran Foer has the most poetic way of writing novels that I have ever experienced. Hundreds of lines in that book dug a home into my soul and have been there since. But this isn’t about that book (although I should probably do a post about it, seeing as how I have so, so much to say about it and need to find other people who have read it as well), this is about how I went to a book talk of Jonathan’s for his newest novel.
My favorite local, independent Ann Arbor book store hosted him and when I found out that tickets were for sale to go and see him, I literally screamed. I was positive they weren’t referring to the SAME Jonathan that wrote my favorite book. Apparently/luckily I was wrong! I bought tickets for my girl friend and I to go see him.
I’ve been amongst so many writers, and usually the way they write is very different from the way they talk. This wasn’t the case with Jonathan. If his novels were poetry then his words were poetry dipped in chocolate, dipped in ice cream. I was so moved by his words- I was so shocked that even in conversation he was still able to be as philosophical and emotional without having written it down and edited it for weeks. His conversation intertwined so deeply with the premise of his books that it was easy to tell that his books had come from very, very deep within his heart and that he meant what he wrote. or at least related to it a whole helluva lot.
"Understanding oneself isn't a prerequisite to being understood."
The book he was doing the book talk about was Here I Am, which I had not read at the time, and had not started reading until just recently. Its since been avoided because his books are so… heavy. They’re a lot to handle, a lot to take in. And now that i’ve started reading it, I have to take a lot of breaks, but also I can’t stop reading it. I want to consume it all in one go, but I can’t because I need breaks where I contemplate what he’s said which ultimately makes me contemplate life. I usually can read books quickly, but I have to give myself time to read his so that I can give it the attention it deserves and to really be able to think about what he’s saying, because he’s always saying beautiful things.
Here I am is so closely related to Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close that my mind keeps bringing up thoughts and questions about Jonathan himself. These two books both have the same deep, riveting emotions that come along while questioning family, love, and dying, that it makes me wonder what is going on in his life that has made him keep these themes so constant in his books. These books were written 11 years apart, yet they are so deeply linked that I just need to know what was so constant in his life that kept him writing about these themes. I guess the “consequence” of seeing Jonathan as a real person is that i’m now relating his books way too much to him as a human being, instead of just letting his books be their own being.
Since the two books have a lot of the same themes, I am constantly reminded of Extremely Loud from a sentence in Here I Am. I am so, so happy that this book feels so closely related to my favorite book because I’m able to revisit the feelings of Extremely Loud without rereading it for the 100th time.
This has mostly just been me rambling and finding it hard to put into words my true adoration for these books and the author- but I hope you’ve pulled from it that Jonathan Safran Foer was not just a one-book wonder, that his language is always beautiful, and that being connected to him and feeling close to his books are such a life changing and comforting thing for me. Please, please give his books a read. They will change you indefinitely.
At the end of his book talk I was able to create the best memory of 2016 by talking to him and having him sign my book. The whole night was some surreal life that I still haven’t totally comprehended.