ELIC Presentation Outline

Kristy Kim

ENGL 012 Literary Cities: Presentation Outline

Professor Dimock

18 April 2016

 

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer

 

 

Background

  • EL&IC is a novel with “visual writing”—sprinkled with photos of doorknobs, birds, a man falling, etc. as well as blank or nearly blank pages

– novel ends with 14-page flipbook (falling in reverse)

  • Tuesday, September 11, 2001, the North Tower of the World Trade Center was crashed into at 8:45 AM, hit on the 80th floor out of 110 stories, killing hundreds instantly and trapping hundreds more

– South Tower is hit at 9:03 AM at the 60th floor

– 3,000 people were killed in the Twin Towers and vicinity, 343 paramedics, 23 NYPD, and 37 Port Authority Officers

– ***the risk of writing about something so poignant and recent

– spoke of this 9/11 novel as a “sort of obligation, a challenge to him as a New Yorker and an artist…I think it’s risky to avoid what’s right in front of you”

  • Bombing of Dresden: Feb. 13th, 1945
  • British and U.S. bombers destroyed the city of Dresden
  • Between 35,000- 135,000 were killed
  • Controversial because mainly only civilians were killed, Dresden was not important to German wartime production nor was a major industrial center

 

  1. The Voyager: Narration
  • Oskar as an unreliable narrator (12-year-old boy, possibly has Asperger’s due to extreme intelligence and lack of social cues (99) but inconclusive)
  • A child trying to understand the tragedy of 9/11, a tragedy even adults could make sense of
  • How is Foer’s choice for his primary narrator to be a child impact the themes of the novel and the reader’s experience? What, if anything, is lost with this choice and what is gained?
  • Is Foer asking too much of his narrator to comment on the nuances of the “worst day”?
  • Oskar as a voyager
  • Novel is less about the incident, more about the city (shows us all of 5 boroughs of NY by trying to find everyone named Black)
  • Labyrinth, clues, searching for explanations

 

  1. The Voyage

1) Actual, physical journey through the boroughs

  • “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” (4)
  • very invested in the concrete, physical tangible objects
  • ties into Oskar’s obsession to find what the key unlocks—finding the objects help find the people they lost
  • the knowable vs. unknowable

– “Parents are always more knowledgeable than their children, and children are always smarter than their parents” (7)

– “I think and think and think, I’ve thought myself out of happiness one million times, but never once into it” (17)

2) Emotional, intrinsic journey of self (type of closure?)

  • **Oskar hides the messages from his mom (68): IMPORTANT PASSAGE
  • “that secret was a hole in the middle of me that every happy thing fell into” (71)
  • reservoir of tears (fairy tale quality)
  • “She could tell that I was zipping up the sleeping bag of myself…I knew the truth, which was that if she could have chosen, it would have been my funeral we were driving to” (6)
  • “sleeping bag of myself” (37)
  • “there’s nothing wrong with not understanding yourself” (114)
  • “I felt, that night, on that stage, under that skull, incredibly close to everything in the universe, but also extremely alone. I wondered, for the first time in my life, if life was worth all the work it took to live” (145)

 

III. Question of Mortality

  • What/who we leave behind, or more importantly, what people remember of us
  • “Do you promise not to bury me when I die?” (168—whole passage)
  • the one word biographies: “everyone gets boiled down to one word” (157)
  • prevalence of the word “war”
  • “So in a way, the more you kiss with lips, the more human you are.” “And the more you wage war?” (99)
  • “it was one of the best days of my life, a day during which I lived my life and didn’t think about my life at all” (28)
  • “Nothing is beautiful and true” (43)
  • Nothing Places: “the less was said, the more misunderstood” (111)
  • “sometimes I can hear my bones straining under the weight of all the lives I’m not living” (113)

 

Concluding Questions

  • Does the book need the context of 9/11 to be as effective? Or could it be just as successful without it?
  • The scars of grief
  • Bruises (50)
  • Grandfather does not speak or outside (162) or hear (165)
  • Presence and absence of time
  • The time stamps on the voice messages
  • “Do you know what time it is?” (112, 118, 125, 129)
  • preoccupying fear that we won’t have enough time/waste time

 

 

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