I have mentioned for some time that I would write more about two books I read a few months ago – now is that time. One function of this blog is sharing cool things, and sharing can sometimes come late. I hope you’ll accept it because these two reads do offer excellent perspectives on balance. If I had written previously I may have done rather lengthy reviews, so perhaps this is best, and I will try to jump to the point about a unique piece of writing, and another piece that is the best Canadian Fiction I have ever read.
Jonathan Safran Foer’s Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close can give you heavy boots and make you feel like a hundred dollars. He weaves together multiple stories with the focal point being a completely unrealistic character in nine year old Oskar Schell. However, it works. When an author exposes extremes, the subtelties of our own inbalances are drawn to light. Be prepared for some differing methods of comprehension – akin to Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nightime and Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius. I enjoy this writing, but it is difficult to pull off for a whole piece (as Eggers himself admits).
Stick with Extremely Loud if you feel it kids a bit much, or not enough. I doubt you will be dissapointed. It may be a little bold to suggest similarities to Catcher in the Rye, but I do feel they are there. It is a struggle to find our place in the world, especially when we feel our support systems are stolen from us. However, the basic goodness of humans – including supposed strangers – can help us realize we are not alone. The comfort of constructing a separate life, supposedly free from relationships, from risk, from the unknown, is, in the end, a false comfort, and far from balanced. Oskar’s journeys help us see that. Oskar’s grandmother offers good advice for this blog when she urges us not to confuse what you have with what you are. Other quotes that I found appropriate include:
“…why can’t people say what they mean at the time?”
“You cannot protect yourself from sadness without protecting yourself from happiness.”
Joseph Boyden’s Three Day Road is the best Canadian Fiction I have ever read. He too weaves together multiple stories, but quite frankly, his writing is on a whole other level. Family, relationships, culture, tragedy, war, and imbalance are just a few of the underlying themes. However, I feel the most pertinent theme is the one that makes the greatest stories in all of literature, film, theatrical, and oral works: redemption. The reader and characters struggle with this concept throughout the novel, but it does come to fruition for some. The lack of it at the cultural, and societal level is also consistently present.
This novel was partly inspired by “the most highly decorated Canadian Native in the First World War”, Francis Pegahmagabow. However, do not think that this is just a war story. This is a classic piece of literature in my opinion. You should read it. I have a better perspective for having done so.