Book Discussion Guide
NoveList Book Discusslon Guide
NoveList/EBSCO Publishing @ 2005
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close oy H
Jonathan Safran Foer
(New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2005)
lonathan Safran Foer was born in t977 and grew up in Washington D.C. As a student at Princeton, he won the
Creative Writing Thesis prize each year he was an undergraduate. While a junior, he began work on an anthology of works inspired by the bird boxes of Joseph Cornell. Entitled A Convergence of Birds, the book was published in 2001.
Foer graduated in 1999 with a degree in Philosophy. That same year/ he traveled to the Ukraine to research his family history. Though he claims it was not planned, the trip eventually resulted in his first novel, which he began writing as a thesis project under Joyce Carl Oates and Jeffrey Eugenides. Following graduation, Foer worked at a series of jobs including morgue assistant, receptionist, math tutor, ghostwriter, archivist, farm sitter, advertising consultant and receptionist, while continuing to write.
The author's short stories began appearing in such noted publications asThe Paris Review, The Review of
Contemporary Fiction, and Conjunctions, and he won the Zoetrope: All Story Fiction Prize in 2OOO. Everything Is
Illuminated, the book begun when he was an undergraduate, was published in 2002. It is the story of a young
Jewish man's trip to the Ukraine to search for the woman who may have saved his grandfather from the Nazis.
Blending fact and fiction, the young man is named lonathan Safran Foer.
Everything Is Illuminated was a bestseller and won numerous awards, including the Guardian First Book Prize and the National Jewish Book Award; it was also named Book of the Year by the Los Angeles Times. The film version of the book is due out in August of 2005, starring Elijah Wood.
In addition to his writing, Foer maintains a web site entitled The Project Museum
(http://www.jonathansafranfoer.com/). Part art piece, part information, the site includes the record of archive of the Empty Page Project, which is his collection of blank paper from the desks of authors such as Susan
Sontag and Isaac Bashevis Singer.
It is the story of nine-year-old Oskar Schell, a jeweler, inventor, tambourine player and actor who searches for clues about his father, who died in the World Trade Center attacks. Foer lives in Brooklyn with his wife, Nicole Krauss, author of
The History of Love (2005). He also has two brothers in publishing. Franklin Foer is an associate editor at the
New Republic, and loshua Foer is a contributor to S/afe.
Foer's second novel, Extremelv Loud and Incrediblv Close, was published in 2005.
On September 11, 2001, Thomas Schell, father of Oskar Schell, died in the second of the Twin Towers, but not before calling home several times and leaving messages on the answering machine. The family buried an empty coffin. Two years later, nine-year-old Oskar has developed coping mechanisms that include avoiding elevators, subways, and boats, playing a tambourine to soothe his nerves, and inventing in his mind rescue devices such as the birdseed shirt.
One day, Oskar finds a key in a blue vase at the back of his father's closet, untouched since the worst day, as he calls 9/11. Thomas and Oskar used to have Reconnaissance Sundays, in which Oskar would follow clues to find objects that Thomas had hidden somewhere in the city. When Oskar finds the key, enclosed in a small
envelope with the word Black written on it, he decides that this is one last game left by his father and begins the search to see what Thomas left him.
Oskar's story is alternated with the story of his grandparents. Grandma, as he calls her, immigrated to the