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Friday, June 20, 2008

Even Split on Liking and Disliking Extremely Loud...

Those of us who read Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, by Jonathan Safran Foer and attended the meeting were rewarded with an incredibly dynamic discussion! Even if you didn't read the book or didn't like it, you had to be enthralled with that discussion!

Barbara, who had nominated the book, kept the group in control and on task. Barbara, I looked for you after the meeting to complement you on your excellent leadership! I couldn't find you, so you have to receive my kudos publicly! Barbara gave us background and set us going with a question, and then she kept interjecting questions to keep us moving along as needed. Of course, we didn't need much prodding, but Barbara's guidance seemed to get us to dig extra deeply into this multileveled multifaceted book. Thanks also to those of you who put yourselves out there expressing opinions and handling the opposition. The argument was as civil as it was compelling!

Soon after we started, I asked for a vote as to how many "liked" or "didn't like" the book. I put those in quotes because they seem to be sort of jargon words. To say you liked or didn't like a book seems oversimplification, but we can all relate to it. We all know whether we liked or didn't like a book! The group was split evenly as to liking and not liking this book. We also seemed to be sitting around the tables according to our feelings about the book! I wonder whether this will be a trend! The yeas sat together and the nays sat together. By the way, we did try a more round circle, and I thought it worked much better. There were no side conversations, at least none that I noticed from somewhat in the middle....hmm, circle...everyone was in the middle! We did start to get a second row behind the circle, but I still think this arrangement worked well. Comments are welcome. So we had the two factions, liked and disliked, and among those, there were a few of us who not only liked the book but placed it high on our list of favorites and excellent books and a few who found the book to be extremely distasteful. So, we were off and running...

Of interest among the background facts Barbara presented was that the author had experienced an explosion during a school science class when he was around Oskar's age. He was not hurt badly, but at least one kid was badly burned on the face. This had frightened Foer, who might have revisited these feelings while writing this book. Though, of course, this book was not about a second-grade science experiment.

Barbara started the discussion by suggesting that the book was about missed and missing communications. This is a very astute interpretation! Think about it: the phone call that wasn't answered, the discussions that didn't happen, the letters that weren't sent... You can add to the list if you read the book.

An interesting comment I noted was that this book contained the kinds of observations and descriptions that Oskar might have written in the book that he carried with him. That makes a lot of sense, adding to the idea that this was Oskar's book or even a book within a book.

We offered several interpretations of the role of the search for the key in the story: 1) an attempt by Oskar to get answers to his questions about his father's death or at least a substitute for those answers. 2) A way for Oskar to continue a kind of involvement with his father, rather than letting go of his father's day-to-day role in his life, and 3) a quest through which all the lives of the characters became intertwined.

Did you find the characters weird or wonderful? Realistic or contrived? Did you like the photos and wordart or find them gimmicky and representative of what Frank calls the "look at me - I'm writing" kind of writing? Did you think the book was appropriately timed after 9-11 or did you think it was too soon? We discussed all of those questions.

There was a lot to this book!

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