The novel was much more painful, but also much more hilarious, than I remember. If you know the premise of the novel, you know why it's sad; if you haven't read it, you must, for it contains the single best adaptation of Shakespeare's Hamlet the world has ever known. I did a lot of laughing in public while making my way through this novel this time 'round. (Well, the first time around, too.)
The first time I read this book, I was in Philadelphia, PA for a conference. I was playing hookie from said conference and wandering around that lovely city looking for a book to buy and a place to read it where I could also bask in the sun. I found both - a Barnes & Noble directly across from a small but well appointed park. I bought the novel and had settled comfortably into a park bench and had barely made it through the first paragraph when...But wait, here is the first paragraph of Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close:
What about a teakettle? What if the spout opened and closed when the steam came out, so it would become a mouth, and it could whistle pretty melodies, or do Shakespeare, or just crack up with me? I could invent a teakettle that reads in Dad’s voice, so I could fall asleep, or maybe a set of kettles that sings the chorus of “Yellow Submarine,” which is a song by the Beatles, who I love, because entomology is one of my raisons d’être, which is a French expression that I know. Another good thing is that I could train my anus to talk when I farted. If I wanted to be extremely hilarious, I’d train it to say, “Wasn’t me!” every time I made an incredibly bad fart. And if I ever made an incredibly bad fart in the Hall of Mirrors, which is in Versailles, which is outside of Paris, which is in France, obviously, my anus would say, “Ce n’étais pas moi!” (p. 1)I believe I'd gotten approximately halfway through the second or third sentence when I heard this, coming from over my shoulder:
"Waaa-waaa-wha-at a-abo-oot a t-t-t-tee-ah-te-ah...ket....leh? Wh-at if the sp-sp-"I looked to my right; a man with sadly undeveloped reading skills was giving the book a go aloud, from over my shoulder. I looked straight ahead in confusion; the fellow across from me, sketching in a notebook previously, was now having a good chuckle at my expense. I looked down in consternation. I didn't want to leave. It was so perfectly sunny and warm and comfortable and I already knew I was going to like this book. The shoulder reader kept reading while I tried to think what in gawd's name I could do.
"-spo-oot SPOUT! oh-oh...pen-ned and clo-zed weh-weh-"And then I hit on a way of both not leaving and not hurting his feelings:
"I'm sorry, but I really prefer to read silently."I tried my best to look sheepish and apologetic. He then looked sheepish and apologetic, said he was sorry, and walked away. I continued with my book. And I soon began laughing out loud...and every time I did, this fella, who'd only gone a few park benches down, would loudly and exultantly announce to everyone outside in that sweet park on that perfect spring day:
She's lovin' it! She loves the book!!!!It was so strange, but so right for this book somehow. Foer's gentleness for humanity is so lovely and enviable. This odd experience could only have been more perfect had I been reading it in NYC instead of Philly. In retrospect, I wish I'd offered to read the book aloud to him, as he was so clearly interested in text and not able to engage in a way I probably take for granted every day, even though I never stop being thankful for the world of books I'm so lucky to live in. In the extremely unlikely event that I ever again find myself in such a situation, I hope I'll do better by my fellow(s).
Tom Hanks non-sequiter
Damn his small, puffy eyes - Tom Hanks has apparently been cast as who the hell knows which character for the film adaptation of Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close. I can't think of who he could be - he's really too old to play Oskar's father and too young to play his grandfather. Grrr. The Hanks is also set to help ruin the film adaptation of David Mitchell's Cloud Atlas, which I find even more heart-breaking. Again, I don't know who he'll be playing because, again, his age doesn't obviously fit with any of the major characters - and I may never know, since I will refuse to see it on the grounds not only of over-Hanksification, but also for the horrifying casting choices of Halle Berry (Luisa Rey? Sigh.) and Natalie Portman (Sonmi? FUUUUUCK!).
I've been trying to think of film adaptations of books that don't completely ruin what's good about the books they adapt, and the best example I can come up with is Oscar and Lucinda (thank gawd for Cate Blanchett (generally) and Ralph Fiennes (before he started screwing Australian airline stewardesses and needing less and less make-up to play Lord Voldemort)). What film adaptations of books, in your view, don't suck?